Teacher/Student Relationships are built on common interests and respect. As a teacher I look for ways to know my students outside of the classroom. What are their interests? What are their activities?
One activity I especially like fosters a growing, respectful relationship between teacher and student at any grade level. Because I often offer technology courses on Verizon Thinkfinity resources, I ask teachers to "rent a student" for the training. This means they bring a student, perhaps a student at risk. Together they learn how to use the resources and when they go back to the classroom, they support each other in the use of the resources. There is a respect that develops between that teacher and the student, between the student and the other students. It is a win-win situation.
Jane, I fully agree with your suggestions, and love your "rent a student" idea.
One of the ways I connected with my students when I was teaching middle school art was through a unit that brought together printmaking, careers, different media and art history. Each of my 8th grade students picked an artist to research, interpret and analyze. Then they created a bound book of linoleum prints about the artist. The reason I mention this project is that I really encouraged each student to choose an artist that would hold their interest for the entire 3-4 week project. I encouraged them to think "outside of the museum" and to look at illustrators, architects and even album designers. So for every student studying Picasso and O'Keefe, I also had a student studying Bill Watterson, Tommy Hilfiger, manga illustrators and graffiti artists. I learned a lot about each student, but they also learned that I was genuinely interested in what interested them.
Maybe structuring kids up with projects that allow them a lot of choice and voice builds relationships? Such as... giving them a project, brainstorming artists they could research, and then facilitating them as they create the project they want to create -- maybe guiding them as they choose how they're completing projects builds relationship?
Hmmm, that's a great question! As a former middle school teacher in an inner city school district, I found the best way to build relationships with my students was to give them lots of "air time," meaning lots of opportunities to engage in meaningful discussions with each other and with me. I think at that age, they are often just trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in, and need opportunities to express themselves and their ideas. I built a lot of curriculum around their social and personal need for expression. Book talks about how they are similar or different to characters and if they would have reacted the same or differently in the situation, social studies lessons about Manifest Destiny comparing it to the journeys most of their families embarked on in coming to the US from Mexico (and having them talk about their family story), etc. Even bringing in snacks afforded me the opportunity to build a relationship with them... on the first day they brought snacks in, about half the class brought carrot sticks that were marinating in hot sauce. I asked them about this, as I had never seen it before, and they enthusiastically told me about this snack staple in their families. An added benefit is all the time they spent practicing (learning) English!
This discussion is bringing back so many great memories of my classroom days. I'd also recommend that any new middle or high school teacher read the books their students are reading (e.g., Harry Potter, The Twilight Saga, graphic novels/comics) and listen to a bit of what they're listening to. I still remember finally connecting with a student who had closed himself off to many teachers by talking with him about Tupak Shakur (back in 1996). Suddenly this otherwise near-silent student was eloquently sharing with me why he liked him, his role in music and the artists he influenced.
So yes, LeeAnn, "air time" is important in showing that you value their opinions, and in turn, they might be more inclined to respect yours.
I totally agree about reading the books and listening to some of the current music! Kristin, I bet your student thought you were so cool when you talked to him about Tupac!!!
I believe that in today's advanced technological landscape, a wiki, blog, discussion thread (such as this), or another digital platform could be a great way to give students "air time" on a multitude of topics. Plus, they are our digital natives and research has shown that they are interfacing with technology an average of 60 hours per week. I say, let's meet them where they're at... online and connected!
However, I don't personally recommend friending students on Facebook or MySpace, I tried it once a few years ago and it was not pretty.
You are so right about social networking sites. When I taught full time in a public high school, the principal drilled in our heads that we must not "friend" students on Facebook or My Space. The school district even frowned on any employees participating in those two sites or any other social sites like Twitter. We were told to maintain professional decorum and refrain from web interactions except email. Even then our school email accounts were for school use only which really is a good idea as well.
As for building relationships with students, I had the good fortune of teaching in a computer lab so at the beginning of each semester, I had the students introduce themselves using multimedia resources. Some often used PowerPoint and included music and videos to introduce themselves. It was a fun activity for all of us because I also participated in this project. Students could include a range of topics such as their families, friends, travels, hobbies, interests, future plans, college choices, etc. It was a way to incorporate many communication skills. The students were motivated to work diligently on this project because they knew it was to be shared with all members of their class. Sometimes we spent as much as a week preparing and presenting the projects. This activity worked so well at the beginning of each school year when students were switching classes, missing textbooks, changing schedules, etc. In my experience, it was always difficult to delve heavily into the curriculum until all the issues facing the start of a year were resolved. That's one reason this project worked so well. It was also a way to remember facts about each other so that when I was teaching subject content, I might comment that a particular student could share more on this subject because of knowing that student's interest and/or experience.
Here's a good website to get you started... http://wikisineducation.wetpaint.com/
Wow, thanks. I think one thing you're saying is that building relationships with kids can in part come with instruction... like, building in air time in class (designing assignments in ways that allow kids air time and ask thought-provoking questions) can build relationships. Thoughts?
For another perspective, consider the following article and lesson ideas.
In fact the NCTE offers this "On Demand The Socially Networked English Classroom: Web 2.0 in the English Classroom" article on the topic. While our content partners at Read, Write, Think offer this and several other lessons that incorporate today's kids ongoing fascination with social networking:
Theresa, sounds like a great article and lesson idea! Do you have to be a member of NCTE to read this article online? I followed the link to the English Journal referenced in the ReadWriteThink lesson that you linked and I could not read the abstract on "Learning with Technology" without logging into the NCTE website and that required membership dues. I was disappointed because the article sounds like good support for teachers who may need to justify using social networking in the English classroom.
I enjoyed your reply. Most of my students are similar to yours, and each year at the conclusion of the first semester, I find myself intricately entwined with my students. I don't take myself too seriously, when my frequent little mistakes occur, I own up. My students seemed surprised at this, making me think that being forthright was not common in their relationships with other adults and teachers. Being emotionally available and authentic, amidst the ever arising situations in the lives of 200 teenage students, does much to cement a bond with your students.
Humor and spontaneity are my great allies. We all laugh heartily and often. It keeps the students on their toes, not wanting to miss a joke. Humor can also diffuse an awkward situation or circumvent a need for discipline. My students have adopted a tradition of drawing caricatures of me. When the class is in need of behavior modification, a student will go to the pile of caricatures and attach one to the whiteboard ( for example: a caricature saying, students do your work). It is nice considering the rough hood that I teach in, that I don't get into altercations with my students.
Finally, students are forever asking questions. I answer their questions on or off topic. Being approachable and reliable in answering a wide variety of questions gave me permission to be their teacher. As such, I tell them many stories. Story time is predicated with a hush that comes over the room, as these 17 year olds going on 5 prepare for a story. These stories take many forms, from a dialog of personal adventure tied to a social or personal world view, to a recounting of readings from one of many science journals that connect the sciences and society to the days or a previous lesson.
As I am now of retirement age, I often wonder if I will always hear my students saying hello Mr. Dickey upon entering, and good by Mr. Dickey as they leave.
I find that the relationships I develop with my students center around the interests we share in the content area. I prefer to keep my personal life private so they have a limited view of who I am outside of school, but clearly understand who I am as their teacher. This enables me to share common interests in the content and bring interesting experinces to them through my stories. This works for me across content areas which helps students see that I am a multideminsional person wih a variety of interests and all subjects have a vaild place. I also tend to through in little surprises, small parts of my interests outside of school, to keep kids guessing and changing their view of me. I like my classroom to be a comfortable and safe place to share, but I don't want my students thinking I am their friend (especially since I am young and more "accessable" to them). Keeping up with their interests outside of school is important as well. Knowing their terms, interests, and dislikes all can be used to effectively teach the content and show students you care about who they are in the process.
Thanks. You know, I'm beginning to notice this too. My first year teaching there was so much I didn't know about instruction, and I felt like my relationships with students suffered as a result. Some people told me that relationships/management and instruction were separate. This year there have been many moments in my classroom when my instruction is clear, creative, and engaging. My relationships with kids is growing better as I'm instructing them more effectively and asking them to complete creative and thoughtful assignments. Also, I'm creative and so as my creativity enters into my teaching, it's authentic for me. Kids pick up on that. I'm also able to be more present with them when I'm happy with my instruction. The classroom becomes increasingly innovative. So, I'm with you -- connecting through content/instruction builds positive relationships. And it upholds your integrity as a teacher. Now my challenge becomes growing and becoming effective in authentic instruction. And using authentic instruction to build relationships. Thank you for sharing.
I really am an open book with my students. I feel it is the best way to connect with them. I didn't start teaching until I was in my mid-thirties, and I have always been open to anyone who knows me. I never allow them to cross that "friendship" line, but I want them to see me make mistakes, understand what I learned when I made them, and how to make positive changes in every aspect of life. i connect everything to something from my life and theirs. I especially like sharing stories of now defunct items from my youth. When we begin writing, I share stories about using a typewriter which leads into great dicussions about the technology in their lives.
In the persuasion unit we just finished I wrote an editorial with my students. I wrote about racism, but then changed my topic to the achievement gap. I shared my writing with them, and they critiqued it. It was a good move to write about something I care about, and share it with them. It was a good move to change my topic, and show my writing mistakes, and to critique my writing together. Maybe this is part of what you're saying? I was sharing myself through content and instruction, using their critique, and it helped build a positive and authentic atmosphere.
I build effective relationships with my students by taking a genuine interest in them and their interests. Students like to know that you care about the things they are interested in and will respond if your interest is genuine - they can smell disingenuous conversations like a dead rat! Some have asked on this thread how you don't cross the friendship line - in my experience, middle/high school students aren't looking for friendship from their teachers, but they are looking for someone who will take them and their ideas seriously.
There are many ways to facilitate in the middle school classroom, and one way is to give the students a choice. No one likes to be dictated to, but everyone likes a choice, and now with the learning objects from www.thinkfinity.org we can differentiate and still teach the standard! Now how sweet is that!
Honestly, the way I've built relationships with my middle school students is by getting to know them and letting them know me. When they have problems, I listen. They know I can't always help and that they have to solve their own problems, but I can listen. I told them stories about myself and my family. If I messed up, I apologized or admitted my mistake.....it is good for them to see you as a human being.
I have always been careful to strictly maintain a professional relationship.....I let them know that I WAS NOT their friend. At first this might hurt their feelings, but I let them know that I was better than a friend. While friends may come and go through their life, some people (parents, teachers, ministers, trusted adults, etc.) can remain stable in their life. The students always knew when I meant business and when we could have fun. And this may seem like a small thing, but they never called me by my first name. I think that sends a message of boundaries.
Really, though, like with any relationship, I think it just takes time.
Reading through all the terrific posts, it is obvious that much care and concern goes into our profession. I think there is one word that can be applied to middle school and particularly high school in building a relationship, and that is - trust. Build trust through competency of subject, consistency in discipline, caring about their skill set, and genuinely showing concern for them. This does not mean socializing with them or taking sides. It means building trust by listening when needed. When confided in, as we all are frequently, never, never, violate that confidence and trust. In other words, build your reputation as a teacher as one who exercises client privilege confidentiality. You might be surprised at how hard the students produce when they know they can trust a teacher.
I found this website available via the National Education Association that deals with building relationships with students. Although the article references elementary age students, some of the tips apply to student-teacher relationships regardless of the grade level. You may get some ideas as an educator by looking at Building Relationships with Students.