Relationships in Action

Photo Credit: Bradley.Johnson. via Compfight cc

After being in pre-internship for one and a half weeks, I have a little more experience in my inquiry topic. I have only started to develop relationships this week as I’ve noticed it takes a while for the students to trust you and understand who you are. However, my coop teacher is someone whose philosophy incorporates relationships into the success of learning. So while I work on the basics of forming those relationships, I am able to see their impact as they’re developed.Many students who are often labelled as “troubled” students perform a lot better when they are connected to the material and instructor. A problem I have came across is maintaining that relationship when there’s a need for disciplinary actions. For example, one of my students benefits from having that relationship with the teacher to learn better; however, he is also a student breaking my cell-phone policy quite often. I am finding it hard to maintain that positive relationship when I need to continually give warnings and take his phone away. I predict that as the relationship gets further developed he’ll want to listen to my instructions and expectations because I have seen him act differently with my coop teacher. I have already found relationship to be crucial to classroom atmosphere and overall learning.I look forward to having more time during internship to really dive into this topic.

The importance of the first day

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I know from previous experiences that the first day in a classroom is one of the most important. Because of this, I looked into some good icebreakers that I could use in pre-internship, internship, and when I have my own classroom. These icebreakers will be the start to the student-teacher relationships that promote learning. The activities listed will help the teacher know the students better as well as help get rid of any awkwardness within the students that is present on the first day.

1. M&Ms– have students pull out a M&M and, depending on the color, answer a questions (red- something about yesterday; orange- something you do well; yellow- something about your childhood; blue- something you learned last week; brown- something you can’t live without; green- something you watch/listen to)

2. Sticky help– Give students one sticky note, have them write down what they need to learn best, then post these on a large piece of paper for later reference.

3. Balloon Pop (requries a SMARTboard)-  This is a game where students through a soft bean bag at the SMARTboard. Wherever it hits, it will open a question about themselves.

4. Two Truths, One Lie- students write out two true statements about themselves and one that is a lie. They tell them to the class and when one person guesses which is a lie, it becomes their turn.

5. List Matcher– The teacher provides a category (such as breakfast cereals) and small groups of students true to list 10 items they believe are on the teacher’s list.

6. Blackout Bingo– Provide each student a handout that contains a table with various statements (such as: I like to shop; I have a pet cat; I have traveled outside the country). Students go around, asking these questions and filling in the names of fellow students

7. Two Extremes– The teacher provides a list of extreme opposites and students find the two people who fit the description (ex. likes chocolate/likes vanilla, likes rap/likes country)

Why are relationships important?

This week I had watched the documentary Bully:

After seeing this I was feeling even more motivated for pursuing my inquiry question about building student relationships. This is because it my understanding of student relationships broadened and I was able to see one of the consequences of not having an inclusive, welcoming classroom. Many of the students in this documentary were bullied and felt they weren’t listened to about their problem. Not only did this result in physical abuse, but also mental abuse that went to far as to drive kids to suicide. Bullying is a hugely emerging problem in today’s schools- especially because of the increase in diversity. I have come to understand, if I work in a big school with big class sizes, I won’t be able to form relationships with each and everyone of my students. My job, as a teacher, is to determine which of my students require such relationships and would benefit the most. The students in the documentary were those students that needed a teacher-student relationships. Although not everything happens in school, that’s generally where it starts. One of the things that upset me in this documentary is that a few of the kids stated they tried to tell their administration and teachers and felt they weren’t really heard. It is just horrifying for me to think of that a lot of those kids who committed suicide as a result of bullying which could have prevented if something would have been done in that school.

How this impacts my inquiry project:
– relationships with students are important!
– a real inclusive classroom shapes the minds of students to think inclusively outside the classroom
– creating a “family”” environment allows students to stick up for each other and allow everyone a sense of belonging (part of the Circle of Courage)
– Care and Compassion (one of Saskatchewan’s educational goals) should be done with relationships and should decrease bullying

Building Student Relationships

Last week, I had talked about the importance of meeting the needs of students in order to create a good student-teacher relationship. In the article “10 Tips To Build Student Rapport”, Bevin Reinin opens with a quote oh so fitting:

“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship…” ~Dr. James Comer

Looking back to when I was in high school, this quote rings that much more true. When teachers didn’t try to have a good relationship with me it was difficult to give them respect and listen to them. Often, those were the classes where time was spent talking with friends instead of learning the material. Having known this, it is that much more important now that I’m on the other side of the fence. As a future educator I am aware that in order for my students to want to listen and learn, I need to make them feel respected and valued. After reading Bevin Reinin’s blog, I am left with tips to help establish good student rapport that enables learning to take place. I am going to list the tips she provides, as well as, my own opinion about how this might go over.

TIPS TO BUILD STUDENT RAPPORT
1. Positive Discipline
I feel like this sounds much easier than it would be. As a pre-service teacher, one of the areas I plan to learn from the most is classroom management. No one wants to be the teacher who yells; however, if rules are too loosely held, the class turns into a circus. Going into my pre-internship, I am very interested to watch other teachers’ discipline methods and analyze how well it would work for me. I know this is very important in building relationships which is why I plan to do further research on this concept.

2. Share your life
I was told from one of the interns who just finished her placement that “students will eat you alive if you try to be anyone but yourself”. Umm…. yikes! When I heard that I was that much more nervous for my pre-internship coming up; but, the more time I thought about it, the more it made sense. No one trusts a phony. So to develop trust, and relationships, I need to be confident in my self and do my own thing. For students to know that even teachers have lives outside of school, I should bring my own interests and understandings into the classroom (of course, never crossing the line of professionalism).

3. Embed their interests
This one seems like common sense, but because of this can be easily dismissed. In order to build relationships with your students, they need to feel cared for. Likewise, if you are aware of their interests, and incorporate them in lessons, this feelings will come through. If someone took the time to plan something I was interested in, more chances then not, I will have a opinion of them.

4. Morning Meetings/Greetings
Simply put, saying “hello”. By greeting students at the door, you are establishing a positive environment right off the bat. I often remember in high school I had felt invisible. I think by talking and greeting my students, they will not feel the same way I did. When calling on students, and using their names, you are giving them an identity… I would say this is pretty important to building relationships.

5. Book Talks
This one is somewhat similar to #3. Engaging in conversations where both you and your students have an interest will make it easy and natural to build student rapport.

6. Mailbox Messages
This was more designed for elementary school by having a mailbox on the student desk where students could leave notes or pictures. However, I feel the concept transfers easily to high school. By creating a place for discussion to take place, students will be more encouraged to address any concerns or comments they may have regarding their learning. This may be just providing your email address that allows students to get a hold of you at any time, or progression interviews which would bring students in for a one-on-one discussion about what’s going on.

7. Attend Extracurricular Activities
With the busy schedule most teachers have, this one can easily be forgotten. However, if you truly want to build relationships with students, you would attend or watch activities your students are a part of- it often means its one of their interests.

8. Classroom pride
Inclusive classrooms bring a large variety of students to the classroom- this can sometimes cause conflict. But, with proper management, a welcoming space can be created that allows all students to actively participate without worrying about being judged. Students will often be a lot more open to student-teacher relationships if they feel valued and accepted within their classroom.

9. Invite families
More times then not, the people closest to your students are their families. By having conferences or meetings with the student and his/her families you have the opportunity to see your students in a new light. Families may have some valuable information about who your students are that will help build those relationships influencing learning.

The needs of students and relationship building

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Does the classroom environment and atmosphere affect the relationships created in the room? This is a question I was left with after being on Pintrest looking up classroom management strategies. My immediate response was no… a classroom that’s plain and standard would not harbour better relationships that one that’s colourful and “funky” (that word just seemed to fit as old school as it is). Do schools with more funding foster better teacher-student relationships?

After reading “Addressing our Needs: Maslow comes to life for Educators and Students” I started to realize how many things actually do affect the relationships that are created in the classroom. In this blog, Dr. Lori Desautels discusses how Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of needs has an impact on the classroom atmosphere and quality of relationships formed. For students to not only build relationships, but also learn, their varying needs must be met first. These needs are put into 5 categories: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, as well as self-actualization. Students need to feel cared for and appreciated for them to trust and give respect. For this to happen, each need must be looked after. Commonly, the people students have the best relationship with are their parents. I think after looking at this article that is because parents are the people who usually look after all of the students’ needs.

So what does this look like in the classroom? These are the suggestions Dr. Desautels provides for each tier:
1. Pysiological- water breaks, focused attention practices, physical surroundings, food, and instrumental music.
2. Safety- attitude, worry drop box, pin-ups (posting compliments or affirmations each day), common experiences
3. Love/belonging- classroom service project, partnered work, celebrations, working together with assigned roles, community circle, and identity (classroom theme, flag, etc.)
4. Esteem- expert day, career day, displaying skills in class
5. Self-actualization- “exploring, modelling, designing, evaluating, and analyzing information outside of their own basic needs, serving others” (Desautels)

I think one of the reasons this article stuck out to me is, because as a pre-service teacher, I often forget my students, like me, are human beings as well. So when I am grumpy because I’m having an off day or am hungry I should remember this could easily be the case for my students to. Until my students’ needs are met, it is unfair of me to expect them to perform their best or get upset when I am unable to form those relationships because of this. From this article I am reminded to look at my students for who they are and not just children I teach. Some students think teachers sleep at school and have no life outside of school; as a future educator, it’s important to not get pulled into the same way of thinking in reverse.