I’ve spent the last couple of days talking to teachers about how to build a positive climate in the classroom. Some feel disconnected to their students and they can’t understand why. Well, a teacher has to build a relationship with her students. That’s not developed by sending home worksheets or going on and on about current events. My advice to them is to connect with their students: let the students get to know them--their teacher as an individual. Information and a sense of humor help.
To some, this might sound crazy. I’m not suggesting that teachers try to be friends with students or divulge their innermost feelings to them. All I’m suggesting is that there be an exchange. Or a response to some questions.
I credit this advice to a teacher I worked with in Glenview, many years ago. He told me that in order to build trust and camaraderie, I had to let students in to my life.
So I did. I told them that I had two kids. One who loved school and the other not so much. I also told them that I had a dog, named Rocco.
When it came to editing their work, I told them that I edited everyone’s work. Even Mr. Stern’s work. That led them to being interested in Mr. Stern’s work. So he stopped by and did a math lesson: what would it take to start up a lemonade stand.
The questions came up at random times. I remember being on a field trip with a student who said, Ms. Stern, what’s your favorite band. I told him that I liked the Doors. And he knew all about the Doors. His father was a fan.
None of this was central to our work, but it led to good collaboration. See, I think a teacher of the gifted and talented needs to be a facilitator. Needs to work neck in neck with her students. Not a partnership, but close.
The best part of sharing about me led my students to sharing about their families. Parents came in to talk about their work: stock market, architects, and legal counsel to coal companies. All of their talks related to our studies.
So, what does this tell new teachers? Open up. Share. Maybe even meet the parents. You’ll know that your students trust you and want to work with you.