Creating meaningful relationships by connecting with students on a personal level.

by Craig Beals

Grades 9-12

Introduction

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years of teaching that can do the most for students, it’s forging personal relationships with them. When educators know their students and can establish trust with them, the culture of the classroom shifts from one of apathy to a genuine and shared interest in learning.

When I ask my students, as they are coming and going to classroom how they’re doing, they almost always say “good.” It made me realize that almost everyone is lying when they say that. I wondered if they would be more honest if they had to register how they were feeling into a computer application.

My cousin helped me develop an app that allows students, who are entering the classroom, to say how they are doing. I am immediately able to see what they write and get a read on the mood of the classroom as evidenced by individual student’s comments. The insights that I get have changed by life as a teacher and as a person. And it has also changed the culture of the classroom.

When you get a glimpse of what’s going on in student’s lives, that triggers compassion in a good teacher and sets a foundation for a trusting and supporting environment of learning.

Reflections

What I did well…

I communicated the importance of building meaningful relationships with my students. I outlined a few activities and practices that I use in my classroom to build trust and a positive relationship with my students. In doing so, I am attempting to create a “culture of collaboration” between students and myself and between students and their classmates – this is the type of environment where learning can thrive. A positive relationship with students means I can elevate my standards and my students will rise to meet those expectations. I hope the viewers of this sequence see, through data from the student check-in app I developed, that students need a positive adult figure in their lives and, in many cases, a teacher may be the only one who can offer that to them. I touched on the most important point of this sequence with the statement I have heard from several students, “…it is nice to know that someone cares.”

What I would do more of, better, or differently…

I mention how important it is that teachers “humanize” themselves for their students. This means that we need to share our personal stories, victories and failures. What I fail to communicate clearly in this video is what happens once we humanize ourselves. I have noticed that the more I share about my life, the more students are willing to treat me like a human and classroom management and discipline issues dwindle rapidly. Likewise, and this is not shared well in the video, it is important that we, as teachers, get to know about our students passions, struggles and lives outside of the classroom. The benefits are profound.

I still want to grow in this practice by…

Relationship building never ends. Whether it is our personal lives or our professional lives, relationships constantly need tending, mending and attention. It is easy to do a few activities with students that help us get to know them but the authenticity of the activities wears over time. I want to continue to find creative ways to remind kids that they matter. I hope to continue to foster a positive learning environment where students can grow and learn.

About Craig Beals

Craig Beals teaches Chemistry and Honors Chemistry at Billings Senior High School in Montana. He holds BS degrees in Biology and Broadfield Science...

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