By: Leslie Cyr
Technology Teacher, BEYOND Technology Education, Inc.
"Generational Differences" is a real thing. Combined with massive change and the exponential growth of innovation in our world, it seems to get trickier every year to "keep up" with students.
The struggle is real for many teachers. However, there are many bold teachers who have crossed over "to the other side" and are learning how these students are really communicating.
Below are 8 great ways to connect with your students. Enjoy and please let us know if you have more tricks up your sleeve!
1. Find Common Ground
What movies do they watch? What shows on YouTube? What games do they love? Even by watching one episode of the show they all seem to be talking about allows you access to them in a new way.
It takes them by surprise in a really good way. These little connections allow for that bridge to a relationship to be built.
Why is this important?
When a teachable moment comes later, this bridge can provide access to their heart. Instead of there being walls up, there’s something much deeper.
They know you care about THEM. No matter what the age, children can pick up on whether someone genuinely cares or not.
2. Celebrate Them
Acknowledge the good things they do in private AND in front of the rest of the class. Don’t be afraid to boast about them. Do this with all your students.
Compliment them as a class, as individuals, compliment group projects, and go out of your way to find the good in them.
3. Know & Ask
Many times, students will share that they are participating in an event soon. “I’m going to Disneyland”, they will say. Or, “I have ballet lessons today after school.”
Why not, make a note, and ask them how it went? It’s a simple way to show them that you care. If you know they were having a Birthday Party, simply ask them, “How was your birthday?” or “How did your slumber party go?”
If you are invited to a baseball game, try to go. Email the parents, let them know their student invited you and if it would be okay if you attend.
Your actions can say more than your words do.
4. Be Consistent
Set your rules, and follow them. Don’t show favoritism. This creates disrespect in your classroom. Don’t be afraid to get out that “teacher voice” if needed.
Some students are testing you. They are seeing if you will really follow through. Sometimes we think being easier on them in these moments, is better.
I’ve found, it only makes it worse.
When a student is acting out, often it has MORE to do with something else in their lives. What is their home life like? Do they have kind friends? Is there someone who is being a bully to them?
Is there a diagnosed or undiagnosed developmental issue? Simply asking the question, “You doing ok?”, “What’s going on?”, can begin to uncover some of these issues.
If problems escalate, it’s important you don’t handle this “lone ranger style”. Being in communication with the administration and the parents is extremely important.
This is a team effort. For you to help the student be successful now and in the future, you need to document, document, document.
Keep track of the dates and circumstances of the problems. If you see an ongoing issue, it’s important that you write these events down so you can communicate them to your Principal/administration and the parents.
This helps to keep your emotions out of the conversation.
7. Check Your Emotions
Celebrating, being excited, and creating a positive environment is why we go into teaching. In the beginning, we hope that every day will be an exciting, promising time of growth and connection with our students.
You learn quickly that teaching is about so much more than just teaching. It’s about guiding these lives down a path. Each one comes in with so many of their own issues, some known, some unknown.
When a student has a discipline problem in the classroom the whole mood and tone is disrupted. Be sure to stay calm and keep your own emotions in check.
The better you can do this, the more stable your classroom will be. Certain students find enjoyment from “pushing your buttons”. Once they know they can, you have lost control.
Care Deeply. Care by showing acts of kindness, high 5’s, and through the tone of your voice when you speak to them.
Sometimes in the hurriedness of our day in the classroom, we forget about how our actions affect our students.
We have an impact on them whether we see it or not. Don’t give up no matter how tough the case is.
Children need adults in their lives who will stick with them through the hard times. Be firm, but always stay hopeful.
You may be in their life at a time when the child is at their worst. Your observations, as well as your actions, could be what turns their life around.
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