I am so excited to feature the first guest blogger to EDM. My friend and colleague, P. Sloan Joseph joins the blog today with this gem that will encourage you to know about your students this coming year in an inspiring new way.
Communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity are known as the 4Cs of teaching and assessing students. Without these skills, it’s difficult for them to become responsible, productive citizens of society. Isn’t that the ultimate goal for all of our students? Preparing our students for college and career, begins with getting to know them. Being mindful of another set of 4 Cs is essential in building relationships with students and maximizing their success.
- Caring | Showing your students that you care is the first step in the process of building relationships. Do students know that you genuinely care about them separate from their academic success? How do you tell/show them? Take some time to say, “I care about you. I will/will not accept _____ because I want what’s best for you.” Listen when they contribute to class discussions and require their classmates to listen, too. Explain how your rules and procedures are created to keep them safe. Most kids like talking about themselves, their family and friends. Give them opportunities to talk, write, and draw to express their interests? Whether we like it or not, students tend to learn more from teachers that they like and/or respect. And they like/respect those they feel like, respect, and care about them.
- Competent | Most educators think competence is solely about their content area. Competence also means considering non-curricular factors that impact the learning environment. Your students are experiencing various stages of psychological and physical development. Do you assess their learning preferences and allow your findings to guide your decisions? Do you consider that students may be self-conscience about his/her weight or the new pimple that has appeared on his/her face. Does your lesson require lots of “sit and get” or do you consider that your students are experiencing “growing pains” and need to move around? What about non-verbal cues? Do you notice your students losing their excitement with a specific strategy, game, or tech tool? Considering these factors will have a huge impact on class culture and your relationships with students.
- Consistent |During the first weeks of school, you are focused on implementing rules, procedures, and pre-assessments. You are observing your student’s attitudes and behaviors to determine your seating chart and learning groups. In the midst of being busy with these daily tasks, you may forget that your students are observing your attitudes and behaviors, too! They are watching your body language, facial expressions, and listening to your vocal tone. They notice if you are organized or easily distracted. When your students are observing you, will they describe you as being consistent? Are you consistent with addressing negative behaviors? Are you consistent with implementing rewards and consequences? Do you show biases towards certain groups based on gender, race, or achievement level? If you aren’t consistent, your students will not trust you. And relationships are built on trust. Be mindful of being consistent. How? Record your lesson and do some self-observations. Have your instructional coach or a colleague observe you and be willing to accept their feedback (good or bad). Use this information to make adjustments.
- Candid | You are an educated, professional adult. Therefore, you speak and think like an educated, professional, adult. Sometimes, there is a break down in communication and lesson implementation because our students are kids; not educated, professional, adults. They may not understand idioms or regional phrases. They may not know how to “read between the lines.” Some of our students are from other countries and speak a different language. What you say and what it means to them can be very different. For this reason, you must be straightforward and truthful about your expectations, rewards, and consequences. You may need to repeat instructions multiple times. Use pictures, videos, motions, and skits to help your students understand. Your willingness to be candid decreases confusion and chaos, and increases student’s confidence and competence.
P. Sloan Joseph is an Instructional Technologist at Greer Middle School, part of Greenville County Schools in Greenville, South Carolina. She serves teachers and students with almost 16 years of experience as a business education teacher, professional development facilitator, and administrator.