Saturday, April 6, 2013

Checking in with my students

Thursday night I had the opportunity to present to a group of student teachers at the University of Illinois. The topic of my presentation was a general overview of how I teach reading and writing – but I think it really ended up being more of my philosophy of teaching and spilled over into reading and writing. You can see slides from the presentation here:

At the end of the hour some of the students came up to ask me questions. One that they came back to again and again was how you build relationships with your students. I had talked about that a bit during the presentation – that without the relationships, there was no point in teaching. The kids are the single best part of our jobs. If you don’t like kids, you need to look for a different line of work.

I thought about that on the way home, when I went to bed, when I woke up, when I got to school. I strongly feel that the relationships we build with our students will help to eliminate classroom behavior issues, help students achieve more, and make our jobs enjoyable.

I began to wonder, do my students see the importance in relationships? Do they think they know me? Do I know them? I think the answer to all of these questions would be yes, but I wanted to be sure – so I asked.

My kids came in first thing on Friday, many asking how my presentation went. They knew I had one the night before and I had been nervous. I shared how it went and then told them about the discussion around relationships. I explained that it had been on my mind and I wanted to blog about it. I asked that, if they felt like it, would they fill out a quick survey for me before heading to Art class?

Every student filled one out. Overwhelmingly they indicated that yes, they do believe that having a strong relationship with a teacher helps them to do better in a class, but that more importantly, they enjoy school more. The reason given for this was that they feel like the teacher “knows and likes” me. Many indicated that they are braver in classrooms where they feel like they know the teacher and that those teachers help them do better in that class. Several indicated that when a teacher knows them, they also know how they work best and help them to succeed. 100% of my students said they thought I knew them well and that they knew me.

I think their feedback just solidified what I already knew to be true. Some even listed what they knew about me – ranging from my boys, my dog, my “tall” husband – to the fact that I have anxiety, want to write a book, my love of chocolate.

Over all of my years of teaching I have met teachers who don’t enjoy their students, who definitely want to keep the distance between themselves and the kids. I don’t get that. No, I’m not their friend. If anything, at this point I feel more like a parent. However, I love my students. I would do anything for them. I think I know them very well and now, I know, that they know me too. I stand by my words to the student teachers. Getting to know your students, developing those relationships, is the best part of the job. Without that, I don’t see the reason to be in teaching.