Secret Number One: Take a Genuine Interest in the Life of Your Students

The follwing extract is taken from chapter 1 of my book: The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know (available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B016ZG1IX0)

I wanted a front cover showing happy, stimulated students.
I wanted a front cover showing happy, stimulated students.

Secret number 1: Take a genuine interest in the life of your students

Youth is a time when so many things are happening: both positive and negative. Young  people at high school are involved in a range of human-relationship dynamics which involve family, school, friends and the people associated with their hobbies or interests. Humans are full of energy at this time, and the interconnections between the life of a student both inside and outside of the classroom create opportunities for us to channel this energy positively and:

  • Build trust
  • Use humour within lessons
  • Create a sense of importance and empowerment in our students
  • Offer guidance and support to students with difficulties
  • Create an environment of cooperation and compliance
  • Encourage our students to formulate their own learning goals
  • Personalise our lessons

Becky was an experienced and well-liked teacher of secondary science. She got on very well with her students, and parents would often mention that they appreciated her ‘special attention’ to their children. She was liked by her colleagues, and she enjoyed her work. One day, her physics student came to school with a broken arm in a plaster cast. Josh, a keen gymnast, mentioned that he had fallen very hard in a training session two days ago. Becky immediately knew that this was golden information for her lesson planning.

In Josh’s next physics lesson, Becky was teaching the class about forces and motion.  As Josh entered the class, she presented him with a starter activity revolving around the forces that act upon a gymnast when taking off and landing on a springboard. She also asked Josh how he was doing (and she was sincere in asking). He said he was healing well, and Ms Becky mentioned that “We can use your experience to help the class today, would that be okay?”. Josh said “sure”. After completing and peer assessing the starter worksheet, Ms Becky asked for Josh to tell the class what had happened to his arm. He gladly told his story, and Ms Becky asked for everyone to clap after he had finished. Using humour and good teaching practice, she said “So using Josh’s story to help you, what do you think one of today’s objectives could be”? One student mentioned a funny comment about how you should always land on your feet and not on your arm like Josh did, which Ms Becky responded to with a smile and a giggle. After this, and with some prompting from their teacher, some students spoke about the importance of gravity in determining the force upon impact, and the speed of free fall. At the end of a very interesting and varied lesson, Becky allowed her students the opportunity to sign Josh’s plaster cast, if they hadn’t done so already.

This example demonstrates the power that taking an interest in your students can have on the quality of a lesson. Let’s examine what Becky did that made this lesson (and her rapport, or relationship with her students, so special):

  • Becky used the hobby of her student to generate a lesson activity (the starter worksheet)
  • Becky shows a sincere care and concern for her student
  • Becky was genuinely interested in the life of her student outside of the classroom (as she was with all of her students)
  • Becky uses student experiences and ‘expertise’ to enhance the lesson content (she asks Josh to talk to the class about what had happened)
  • Becky is tasteful in her humour, and she makes sure that Josh is happy to share his story before she asks him to do so.
  • Becky rewarded the class for their good work by allowing them a few minutes at the end to sign Josh’s plaster cast. Not only did this subtly reveal her caring and ‘human’ nature, but it also bonded the class together as a whole.

Advertisements

Author:

High School Science and Mathematics Teacher, Author and Blogger. Graduated from Bangor University with a BSc (Hons) degree in Molecular Biology and a PGCE in Secondary Science Education. Richard also holds the coveted Certificate in Mathematics from the Open University (UK).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s