Get to Know Your Students pt 1 #julychallenge Post 11


As I read this piece, 14 Ways to Think About Good Teaching, I thought…I want to do it all!  But that’s a lot.  Wait a second, I do some of these things.  So, here goes…

1. Get to know your students, especially how they learn and think.

Its my belief this is a vital part missing from many classrooms.  There are 2 important factors here-to know your students as people and as students.

Have a real conversation with them.
So many times I have had conversations with students who feel disconnected at school.  There is a very cost efficient  solution.  Its free.  Take time to talk with them.  Have a conversation about something outside of school.  What do they enjoy?  What’s their favorite food?  What are they interested in?  What are they most passionate about? And if they are not sure, well, help them realize it.  Listen intently.  Ask questions.

Encourage them.
I like sharing life lessons in class.  There are moments when they need a brain break from math.  A perfect opportunity to share some insight.  Of course some may think my advice for life is corny, but years later, its those things that stick with them.  The hand…was shared at a conference, I think an ACT Bootcamp, Jennifer McDaniel, but she used this in her class in helping to develop a different mindset in her students.


Thumb- Efficacy – This was a new term for some students.  So we discuss other words its similar to, what they mean, hopefully making a connection for them.  In the end, they must believe in themselves.  If I convey my belief in them, this strengthens their I can do this! attitude.  Thumbs up!!!  You’ve got this!!!

Pointer-Consciousness – Be aware of our actions. We need to pause and consider the outcome…is it what we intended?  But also, if we are truly learning, its not supposed to be easy.  There are some things that will be tough and will require us to think, struggle before arriving at a solution.

Tallman – Craftmanship – Take pride in our work.  Stand tall and be proud knowing we have given our very best effort, not matter what.

Ring – Flexibilty.  All things in life will not go the way we want.  We must not get bent out of shape and react in frustration.  But pause, look for options and make a decision that will move us toward our goal rather than keep us stagnant.  Those loops life throws at us require us to be more creative and allow us opportunities to learn and grow.

Pinky – Interdependence – If there’s a will, there’s a way.  I tell my students I am there for them.  But I can’t be fake.  They smell fake.  I am sincere when I look at them in the eye and offer my pinky as a promise to support them as needed in their journey.  When faced with a challenge, we cannot give up.  We should consider our resources, school, teachers, friends- surround ourselves with peers who will push us, challenge us to grow and better ourselves, so that we can have a positive impact on our school, community.

Afterall, if it were not for my students, what purpose would I have.  It would not be much fun teaching in an empty classroom.

Let them know #youmatter.
It was a Thursday morning.
First period.
The upcoming seniors were freshmen.
A student sat front and center in my room.
She was wearing a clothespin.
A hug clip.

So, what do I do? I get a sharpie and a pack of clothespins (Yes, I had them in my room-I hot glue them to block walls for displaying posters, vocabulary, student work.)

Anyone who needed a hug, got a hug clip that day.  Nearly every student got one.  The idea, wear it.  When someone asks what it is, tell them.  Offer a hug.  Pass on your hug clip.  They do the same.  I saw several hug clips throughout the next few days.

The next fall, while sitting in my room eating lunch, I heard the news about the tragedy at Sandy Hook.
It rattled me.
I cried.
That afternoon I stopped by Mighty $ and picked up some new hug clips.  I wanted everyone of my students to know the next day how I appreciated them.  Loved them.  I wanted them to know #youmatter.  They are the reason I get up and come to school every morning.

I reflect on the years I felt most connected to my students.  Its those who I took the time to have real conversations with, those I was most intentional about encouraging, those I verbalized my belief in.  I didn’t just hope my actions spoke it.  I told them, too.  Teenagers need to hear it as well as experience it.  Good, healthy, positive relationships. And now, I realize these are non-negotiables for my classroom.

Investing a little time to get to know your students as real people – will pay huge dividends in the end.

5 responses »

  1. Pingback: Get to Know Your Students pt 2 #julychallenge Post 12 | the radical rational...

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  4. Pam,
    Excellent post! Especially for the beginning of the year. Connecting with students is key to creating that “can do” attitude. These two simple ideas carry a lot of weight and are easy to do. Thanks for all of your prolific writing!

  5. Pingback: You Guys, Funny Quotes, #YouMatter, Sitting Down: My first TMC17 recap post | Continuous Everywhere but Differentiable Nowhere

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