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How-To: Manage Your Classroom
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How To: Manage Your Classroom
NYC Helpline: Manage Your Classroom

Making Positive Connections with Students BEFORE It's Too Late  Nancy Powell

Here you are --- the start of a new year with new students, possibly a new classroom or new text books or maybe even a new school. You need to make a connection with someone, so make it a commitment to get to know your students. I love meeting and greeting my students at the door. I take them by surprise and shake their hand and welcome them to class. I find my smile and in a sincere way let them know that I'm glad that they are in my class for the year or semester. I try to learn their names as soon as possible. 

Once we're together inside the walls of the classroom, I have them fill out their millionth (at least it seems that way for high school students) information card. I ask for important information like everyone else. But what might be different from other information cards is that I ask them to "write something on the back of the card that is special about you." I make them write something because I let them know that everyone has something special and some students have never been asked this. Many times they will write it but wouldn't tell anyone else. I don't make them "expose themselves in front of the class," but I may look through the cards and say we have special people who like to …., who are doing,…., and who are…… without embarrassing them by reading names. Maybe they like to do something that most students that age don't do. Here are some examples. I had a student who was in my freshman algebra class that was a nationally ranked billiards player. I don't think I would have heard about this without the cards. She didn't talk much and was so busy playing at tournaments on the weekends that others didn't know her very well either. This year I have a championship horseback rider. Another student was working on a quilt for a homeless person. Some of my students had wonderful collections at home that they could tell you all about. And once in a while I receive a card that said, "there is nothing special about me." My heart hurts, but I can identify that student early and begin to help that student feel special and important in my class. Nothing makes a person feel more alone or sad than to be alone in a classroom of unfamiliar people.

If students know that you care, it makes management a little easier and "special" information cards are a good way to connect with your students early! It gives you all sorts of information to use in examples that you create such as word problems in my math classes. I can change the subject matter to keep the connections and their interests alive creating a learning community right in the classroom.


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