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How-To: Develop as a Professional

Connecting With Your Students Marianne Francone

In the wake of Standard-based learning and accountability, I am finding that many teachers have moved away from what really makes learning meaningful. Many students are falling through the cracks because of their disinterest in school. Others, still, are crippled with fear or worry about situations outside the school. Some are hungry, and still others sick. How do we teach content to these children?

There is plenty of literature that supports the notion that teaching is a process rather than a technique. It requires more than just methods and curriculum. In order to create positive learning experiences that foster student growth, teachers need to find ways to connect with their students. It can be as simple as learning what they like to eat or what kinds of pets they have at home. Take the opportunity to let each student know you are interested in something they do or like. Make learning personal to them.

You have a student who loves to play baseball. In fact, during a math lesson you see him shuffling baseball cards in his desk. Use that interest in baseball to engage that student. Ask him how many innings are in a baseball game. Ask a fraction-related question, such as "How many innings did you play if the coach left you in for 2/3 of the game?" BINGO!-The student is back in the ball game.

You might ask that same student if he could bring his baseball cards out during recess to share with you. That may be the connection that allows this student to be available for learning, and enables a trusting relationship to sprout.

If you have difficulty making a connection with a student, try the following:

  • Call a parent or brother/sister to ask what the student is interested in.
  • Start the year with an "Interest Inventory."
  • Ask former teachers about the student.
  • Pay attention, listen, listen, listen!

Communicating care, acceptance and respect for a student will take you a lot further than any fancy teaching method. It is important to plan purposeful activities that provide the opportunity for you to make meaningful connections with your students. The students will be more available for learning and your job will be much more interesting and rewarding.


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