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NYC Helpline: Manage Your Classroom
NYC Helpline: How To Get Started

Knowing Your Students and Letting Your Students Know You
Judi Fenton

It is crucially important to connect with your students. Teachers who don’t get to know their students well, and don’t let the students get to know them well, more often have behavior issues in their classes. When students get to know you and feel you know them, they make more rational decisions about whether or not they want to cause you trouble in the whole class setting. Even the most difficult students think about their actions before causing trouble when they feel connected to their teacher. By getting to know them well, and letting them get to know you, you help them to see that you are a real person and their actions may cause you pain. When you are a likeable human to them, they don’t want to do that. Knowing your students well help you to know how to handle their behavior better. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Have each student fill out an interest inventory. Read their answers often to remind yourself about their interests—then teach with those interests in mind. Teach lessons based on their interests, buy books about those things, create math word problems based on their interests (and use students’ names in the problems), talk to the kids about what they are passionate about, etc.

  2. Have a few students in to eat lunch with you once a week. I know you need some student-free down time, but an investment of one lunch hour per week can serve you very well. Sitting down to informally eat and talk and laugh and be human with 3-4 students can really help you get to know them well outside of the more formal classroom environment. They will also get to know you, as a person instead of a teacher.

  3. Include yourself in their learning community and model what a learner looks like. Reflect aloud with your students about your own learning. Share your own story about how difficult converting fractions to decimals was for you until your teacher worked individually with you. Tell them that when you write you have to be in a quiet place with a beautiful journal and a perfectly balanced pen in your hand. Share that all of us learn differently, including you.

These suggestions will not only lead to a more peaceful classroom community with more engaged learners, they will also make you a more relaxed teacher. You won’t have to put on your “teacher” persona when you are in front of your class. You’ll be able to more fully integrate yourself into your teaching, and that will lead to many good things.

Do you have a comment or question about this How To? E-mail Judi.


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