Monday, September 15, 2014

Crash Course Week 2: Chemistry

"Relationship building isn't always easy, but I have learned that it is the single most effective way to engage and motivate my students."

"The most powerful relationships occur when we willingly give of ourselves and seek to understand others wholeheartedly."

These are two quotes that really jumped out at me in this chapter. Relationships are so important in education and life in general. What thoughts do you have about relationship-building in your classroom? Do you have an example of a student with which you struggled until you were able to build a stronger relationship? What advice do you have for other teachers who are working on building relationships with students?

Thank you all for the tremendous participation last week. We've got over 70 people participating already. If you know of others who would like to join us but were not able to participate last week, please let them know it is not too late. For next week, we will read and discuss chapters 2 and 3, "Magic" and "Courage."

80 comments:

  1. This makes me think of my past students. I try to take a personal interest in each of my students because, as the book mentioned, I do believe that "they are God's children and He has a purpose for each of them". As a Title One teacher I like to start out the year by having students share "favorites" and subjects they like to read about then find books at their level about that subject. I look forward to the next chapter!

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  2. I think building relationships does make all the difference in the world. I always do an interest inventory at the beginning of the year to see what the students like and dislike. This gives me a jump start on getting to know them. However, I am unable to connect faces up to names right at the beginning of the year and this makes it a slow process at first. I go back over and reread these after I start learning names better.
    One big help I found was after our fall break, which is a week long and occurs after our first nine weeks of school, I have each student write me an essay about what they did or where they went over break. As a math teacher this gives me a good chance to incorporate some more writing in to the classroom, and it really gives me a chance to get to know the students even better. After I read each essay, I left at least a two to three sentence comment. On some I commented on how I like to go to that place as well, or I have always wanted to try some event they participated in. Some just talked about staying home and watching T.V. Where I could, I also left a question with the comments I made. This gave me some conversation starters with the students as they responded back in person at a later time.
    I had a lot of students comment on how they were shocked that I responded back. Most expected me to either not read the essays, or to just glance over them quickly and hand them back. I know this was halfway through the semester, but it really helped strengthen bonds with some students and create some new ones altogether.

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  3. I realized early in my career when I had a difficult student, I needed to change how I approached them. If I tried to "correct" the behavior without evaluating how I may be contributing to the situation, the outcome rarely changed. But, if I looked at myself, which usually meant approaching the student in a way the strengthened the relationship as opposed to creating an adversarial relationship, then behavior improved.
    It's no real secret that teaching is all about relationships, but in the heat-of-the-moment, so to speak, sometimes it is hard to remember that.

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    1. I couldn't agree more with you. Sometimes I have been so frustrated with a student, and then once I take a look in the mirror, and realize how this student may have been treated his/her entire school career, I make the necessary changes and adapt to how that student needs me to teach him. It's hard to do, but can be so rewarding to connect with a student that at one point I hoped would be absent everyday!

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  4. As the librarian, my situation is a little different. Discipline isn't necessarily an issue since students generally need something from me so they are especially appreciative. But on the other hand, the building of relationships is more difficult because I don't always see the students daily. When students return books, I try to talk to them about the book and see if they would recommend it to me or other students. I read what they read and make connections through the books. I also feel it's important to be part of their extra curricular world. I've sponsored Student Council and Prom for many years and even when I'm in the middle of the homecoming week chaos and am completely exhausted, I look at how many students are involved and remind myself that it's all worth it.

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    1. I understand how you feel since you don't see your students on a daily basis either. I have Computer lab k-5 and only see my kids once a week. I have a place in my heart for every one of the 917 students I see each week. I try to give compliments to at least 3 kids in every class. I look for the kids who aren't the most "polished" in the class and try to tell them I appreciated how hard they worked, or that I like how they are a very good model for behavior. Sometimes I just kind of whisper it to them because I know some of them would be embarrassed if I called them out for "good behavior" especially some of the 5th grade boys! I try to connect with them through what they type or some of the games they play when they are given some free time. They absolutely love it when I get on an open computer next to them and try to play the same game as them. Sometimes I will get on my computer and turn the projector on and we will have a challenge with the whole class. I like that doing those things that help build a sense of team work because honestly they don't care which student wins, as long as they beat the teacher!!

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  5. With junior high age students, I have noticed that some frisky, troublesome personalities to whom I can give some recognizable responsibility are easier to deal with if their efforts are channeled positively. For example, I have students wire their own computer to my classroom projector instead of using my own computer. Allowing the student to maneuver through a website, example presentation, or whatever the focus might be shows that I trust his/her ability to stay on task and lead in front of a group in a positive way. This has paid off with their hope of being allowed to repeat the privilege and has proven effective to show my interest in that student's capabilities. Really I have found that any responsibility (classroom or extracurricular) that I can move in the students' direction will build a better relationship.

    Students want to know that I am interested in their lives and any opportunity that I can bring their athletic/extra curricular events and successes into a class discussion or passing mention increases the dialog that provides easier interaction....not just in the classroom....sometimes for years to come.

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    1. Great suggestion, Tammy- about the computers being wired to the projector so they can show the class how to navigate. It builds confidence, it let's them take ownership and responsibility, and it empowers the students as leaders. I'm so going to steal this idea and start having my students do that in class when we navigate our class website- thanks for sharing!

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    2. This is a great idea! My class is supposed to go one-to-one next year and I am going to steal the idea as well. I also know that the kids can teach us a lot about technology (at least they teach me a lot!) and this would maybe give some student the opportunity to show their knowledge. A student that is not strong academically might be a techie and can really stand out among classmates in a positive way - builds their confidence with other activities as well. Love the idea.

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  6. I'm a first grade teacher, and I think it may be easier with the little ones as they really WANT to have a relationship with you. In fact I often find myself saying something along the lines of, "I know you want to tell me more about (your vacation, your dog that died last summer, your cousin's trampoline, etc.) but we have to write our spelling sentences now. Can we finish the conversation in the lunchroom?" and then I need to remember to follow up. I also always begin the week by inviting each child to tell us something interesting or exciting that's happened since we were last together. This not only helps me stay connected to each student, it helps them stay connected to each other and I always emphasize that we are a 'team' within our school and need to stick together. As many teachers do, I also feature each child in a "Star Student" bulletin board display at which time they get to talk to the class about the things that make them uniquely special. I've yet to pull an all nighter to tailor a lesson to the interest of a specific student, but I really admired the author for doing so!

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  7. I had a student two years ago that I made a connection with and didn’t know it until the following year. This student didn’t want to be at school, he was bored and was always trying to create distractions in class. Every day was a struggle to try to find some way to get through to him. All of his teachers had the same experience. He accumulated so many detentions and suspensions that by the end of the fall semester he was expelled for the spring semester.

    When he returned the next fall, he was a completely different person. He came to visit me almost every day between classes, just to talk and say “hi”. One day I asked him why he wanted to hang out with me every day. He said, “No matter how terrible I was, you never gave up on me.”

    Over the past two years, I have gotten to know this boy very well. He still visits me every day. He asks for advice when he has problems and we have a small celebration when he has good news. He isn’t perfect by any means, but he stays out of trouble most of the time and he is on track to graduate next year.

    If someone had told me two years ago that I had made a difference in this student, I never would have believed it.

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  8. When I was in the classroom, I made it a point to send a positive note in the mail for 2-3 students per week. For some students this was the first/only positive communication their parents had ever received. One student mentioned this to me just a couple of weeks ago- it has been almost 20 years ago. He received a positive note and his parents didn't believe it was real. Now as a counselor I send each student a hand written birthday card with a piece of candy attached. Once again I try to comment on a positive trait or happening in the student's life. Many of the students will thank me for this card. I also try to attend sporting events and concerts and plays to let he students know I am interested in their lives away from the classroom.

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    1. One of my goals this year is to communicate with parents more often about positive things I see their child do. So far I have emailed 6 parents and have received great responses saying how much they enjoy hearing praise about their child. I always keep it short and to the point (such as "Billy wrote a phenomenal essay this week, using more descriptive detail than any other student" or "Sally offered to read aloud today in class, something not many freshmen students do"). You're right that sometimes this is the only positive communication they've ever received. I think we teachers need to remember that we don't need to just call or email home when something negative occurs!

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  9. I try to find out students' favorite topic, super hero, items they collect and other interest before I become their teacher. I search for books on as many of their interested topics I can find. They are on display at " Meet Your Teacher Night." Attending students games, performances, and sometimes meeting the parent and child for a snack on me, works towards building relationships with those who are more difficult to reach on "School Turf." In the classroom, I take turns being each of their reading buddy, study buddy, or playing/ building with them on some inside recess. It gives me more time to listen to them and learn more about what they like or is going on in their world.

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  10. As a Title 1 teacher it is very important to build relationships with my students as they are the ones that oftentimes need a positive example. They need to feel loved and wanted. I have been working with one particular student to finish assignments in class, do homework, and do his best work always. I started a "Good Work" chart 2 weeks ago and told him that he would be rewarded for his efforts. It has been going great! One day in the hallway he heard a teacher using a microphone and was very intrigued. So for his reward this week he got to use a small amplification system and read a book using it. He was so excited! This may seem small but it was BIG to him. I was able to take something that interested him and use it as a motivator and a reward. I am going to try to be more intentional with all my students and show them that I care about their interests.

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  11. I am quickly learning that the way you approach a student can make the difference between an effective conversation and a total communication failure. Every student responds differently to each teacher. I try to engage the students in conversation whenever I get a chance; I love to hear about what is going on in their lives. It is awesome to see how animated they become when the topic of conversation is something that they are passionate about. I think it is awesome how the author used a particular student's interests to create a lesson in which the student would be engaged. It is so much more productive to have a chat with a student about grades or behavioral issues when we have common ground to start the conversation.

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  12. It's reassuring to read so many great strategies above that I use as well. I definitely did not understand many things at the beginning of my career. A switch I started to make involved setting aside time each class to talk to a student I haven't yet as well as engage in "non-history" discussions despite it being a U.S. History class. I tell students all the time that I am more interested in the people in this room than all of the historical figures we are studying. Also, I try to laugh with every student once I can figure out their sense of humor. When I can't get a kid to laugh I know I need to spend some real time there getting to know them. When you make the classroom an inviting place, good chemistry and trust are possible.

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    1. Great point- laughter and a sense of humor go a LONG way in middle school for building chemistry. You have to be able to laugh with each other and at yourself- that's just part of this age group. It creates a culture where it's safe to mess up, to goof around, to have fun while learning. It makes the room safe- as long as it's not inappropriately sarcastic (sometimes middle schoolers LOVE a sarcastic joke as long as it's not at anyone's expense). My #2 classroom rule is "no meanness" of any kind- even in jest. And as a Social Studies teacher, I love your comment- the real students in our classes are WAY more important than the historical characters we teach! I think I can get lost in curriculum and forget that for moments in my classroom- I'm sure we all have our moments when the pressure to "cover" overwhelms the connections in our classrooms.

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  13. I have a larger number of students than usual this year- our 6th grade class is the biggest in the 9 years that I have taught at the middle school- and I'm feeling it with the relationships. It's harder in a class of 30+ to form those close relationships. What has helped me most is hallway duty- the 6th graders crave attention and stop by to just say hey and tell me a little something about themselves as they walk by. It is part of my supervision duty, and it also helps me see who isn't interacting with friends or might be having bullying or locker problems. That hallway "chemistry" carries over to the classroom and helps eliminate behavior problems before they start.

    The other thing I do to help with relationships is walking around during individual work or project time- I try to touch base with every child several times during a class on a work day, rather than just sitting behind my desk and grading papers (like I used to- I'll confess!). It wears me out, but I get to see and learn SO much about my students by watching them work on their own or in small groups. And it's fun! I've developed a real love for 11-12 year olds and their quirky sense of humor, changeable personalities, and zest for life. The kids crave interaction with adults who think they are fun and interesting- so many don't have parents at home who can take the time to just enjoy them (working long hours, involved in their own adult lives, single parent families, business) so at the middle school level they truly enjoy the teacher-student relationship.

    Does anyone else have students who consistently want to be more than appropriate? They want to be my Facebook friend (I know some teachers have an account for their classroom- but I'm talking about my personal life page), they want to call me their BFF, they want me to share my gum etc. with them as if I am their peer. We have a LOT of conversations it seems about how to be appropriate- the lines are so blurred in society and kids just struggle to know how to define the teacher-student relationship. I guess sometimes there is TOO much chemistry. How do you help kids understand that they are NOT your friends (I have adult friends, I don't need student friends) but rather you care about them appropriately as a teacher-student relationship?

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  14. Relationship building was one aspect I was unprepared for when it came to teaching. My first year teaching I was placed with a class full of junior boys, who were less than motivated to take my class. We had VERY little in common and I made little attempts to connect with them on a personal level. My approach was to keep things very "business - like". Lecture, video clips, post assignments, etc. No one was more surprised than me to find out I was in the middle of a classroom management crisis. Student behavior was unacceptable, assignments were hardly turned in, it the recipe for disaster. Finally at the end of the first semester we had a heart-to-heart and talked about what improvements needed to made in order to ensure a more successful second semester. The number one complaint among the students was a general feeling of "robotic" instruction and that I did not care about what was going on in their lives. They felt there was little connection from the curriculum to their interests/hobbies.

    Second semester was not perfect, but it certainly had its improvements. Looking back, that is a year I certainly do not want to repeat, however, I must thank them for making me realize the importance of knowing your students and the role relationships play in student motivation.

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    2. Melissa,
      I had a misspelling, so I'm going to retype this comment! I remember that year, as I had the other section of low-achieving juniors. I, also, had to work especially hard to establish a connection with my class, too. It helped that we collaborated on the final exam. We both contributed, and produced a final exam to be proud of. Your post is a good reminder that students need to interact with their teachers. The more I build relationships with students, the better chance I'll have to avoid problems with students later.

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  15. The one sentence in this chapter that really hit home with me was, “When we show others that their interests matter to us, we are making meaningful steps toward developing lasting bonds and trust.” As a librarian, I have very sporadic opportunities to connect with individual students. I have found I have to take full advantage of every minute I get. During my first year at my high school, I noticed several kids tended to just hang out in the library during what would be considered “socializing time”. I tried to think of ways to engage these kids and make them feel a part of the school. A Book Club soon began with about 10 kids. Nine years later, the book club involves approximately 50 kids, we meet every week, have a movie night once a month, visit museums, go hiking, attend book talks, and just enjoy each other’s company. I found these kids felt like they were different or “weird” because they liked to read and hang out in the library. I realized these were my people! We formed what we jokingly call the Nerd Herd. We even formed a Battle of the Books competition team and invited other county schools to compete with us. Now these kids have a place to hang out, share with friends, and just be themselves. By showing them how many other kids share their interest in reading and consider themselves “geeky,” they were able to open up and be a part of a comfortable group. One even said to me, “I never actually thought I would get to compete in anything in high school since I can’t run or bounce a ball but now I get to kick butt with books.” This made it all worth it!

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    1. I love this! You found kids who felt they didn't belong and created a place for them to belong and it sounds like it is THRIVING!! Good for you! I love the "nerd herd" lol. Awesome way to connect with a book club.

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  16. Being from a small town where "everybody knows everybody" I have students in my classes that absolutely THRIVE on hugs, smiles, waves, and any other acknowledgement I can give. When I taught Title I I used to go outside on recess on my breaks and play knock-out with some of the 4th grade kids. Some of the boys that played were in my title groups and I didn't have a good relationship with and I knew they wouldn't want to do anything I asked if they didn't like or respect me. After a few games where I owned them, we joked, they told me all of the reasons I beat them, (I was taller, they hurt their ankle, they didn't feel good...) and then at the end of that recess when it was time to go in, one ran up to me and said "Hey, Mrs. Akers, are you going to play again tomorrow?" and I asked, "do you want me to?" and he responded, "Yeah, you are really good!!" After that I tried to make it outside to play knock-out 2-3 times a week when I could. I give high 5's to my older kids in the hallways, I give hugs to all my kiddos that want one and I always leave my door open between classes. This might sound weird, but I keep my door open because I am centrally located in the building and when some classes walk by, my students like to look in my door because they know I will stop what I am working on to wave at them and smile. I absolutely LOVE to see their little faces light up when I smile and wave back at them. Sometimes I just stand by my door and give high-fives and wave. I LOVE working with these kids and love building a trusting relationship with them where they know I am always here for them to listen if they need it or just for a quick morning hug because they might not have gotten one before they left home.

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  17. One of my students taught me the importance a teacher might have. The first year I had this particular student, he was one of around 80 students who had me for English 9. He was shy, quiet, and blended in so much that I can't say I knew him very well. I should have done more to get to know him individually. The following three years, he took my elective Current Events class. I'm not sure of the reason, but the chemistry was right, and this student has let me know in a variety of little ways that he looked forward to my class, enjoyed my class, and liked me as a teacher. After four years of seeing each other almost every school day, I learned a great deal about his family, his opinions, and I watched him learn to speak up and have the confidence to state his opinions freely. This student had some personal tragedies in his life to deal with. Another teacher and I went to his father's funeral, and I know that meant a great deal to him. As I built a relationship with this student, he began working harder as a student for me. English class was a struggle for him in the ninth grade, but by his senior year he had improved so much! I regularly found ways to mention this to him, and I think he knew I cared about his improvement at school. I try to remember there may be other students out there who need me to encourage them.

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    1. Often with my students I find that I'm the only adult in their life that encourages them. Sad as it is, think of the impact that makes to have an adult care and be interested in their victories and improvements!

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    2. I think that is so true! It is very sad but for many of my students school is the best part of their day. They are safe, have two meals, and people are nice to them. Even when it is tough to remember, we are the most positive people in their lives and for too many of our kids we are the only ones pulling for them and pushing them and taking an interest in them. I find, like so many of the comments have stated, that when kids know we care, they work harder for us and their behavior is better too.

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  18. Relationship Building is the most important part of a teacher’s career and the most frustrating in some ways. I always remind new teachers that building a relationship means being friendly without trying of become one of the student’s friends. The goal is not to become the “cool kid” in your own classroom. It is much more important to become someone that a student can count on for help when the task is frustration. Become the teacher that the student can trust to not put him /her down for his/her beliefs or lack of skills. This causes frustration for some people because this vital element of teaching can not be tested or measured with numbers.
    Another factor that can be frustrating is that one person can not be all things to all the students in the class. There will be students that you, as a teacher, just can not reach but this does not mean that it isn’t worth trying. Experienced teachers realize that sometimes the best thing he/she can do for a student is to guide the person to another individual ,like a guidance counselor.
    Sometimes a person can have a successful rapport with one teacher when it just did not click with a different teacher (through no design or plan of either teacher). Years ago I had a student in my English class who drew barbarian characters on his papers. One day I happened to recognize one of the characters from the few times that I played Dungeons and Dragons in college and I wrote “nice Mongrel” on his paper. I did not know that the English teacher from the year before had told him that he could not draw on his worksheets. My accidental, quick comment helped the student decide that he would keep an open mind about my class because I had kept an open mind about his drawings.

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  19. This chapter also reminds me that building relationships with our students' parents is equally important. One of my first years teaching, the principal recommended that we make at least one phone call a week that was positive to parents. I was shocked during my first phone call when I told the dad who I was and from the school...his tone went frosty and he did not sound happy to hear from me. I believe his first words were, "yeah want did he do now?" I proceeded to tell him how his son had taken on the responsibility as a positive role model in my class and I was really proud of him for the work he had been doing. I followed up by saying that I was really excited to work with him the rest of the year. I was met with dead silence! The dad said it was the first positive call he had ever had about his son. It really stuck with me. Also, the dad told his son and he couldn't wait to tell me the next day in class that he knew I had called home. He couldn't stop smiling.

    My interactions with this boy weren't always so grand but I really believed the initial call home helped in a lot of ways. For one, I know the dad now felt like we were a team instead of on opposite sides. When conferences came around and I had concerns, the dad was willing to work with me instead of against me.

    I'm not great about a phone call a week but I try to make positive contact regularly with my students' parents...a postcard home, an email about something great that happened in class, etc.

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    1. I really appreciate your comments about building chemistry with parents...it is so important! What a great perspective.

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  20. I think in order for you to have a positive relationship with students, you need a positive relationship with parents, too. I always try to go above and beyond when contacting parents. I sent home several papers, then touch base with them through emails. When you have that strong relationship with a parent, you are able to connect with the students, too. I have one student in my class who is always forgetting to turn in his homework and regularly forgets projects, too. I want to see this student succeed, so I am constantly communicating with his parent to figure out ways to help the student remember his assignments. Because this student knows I speak regularly with his parent, he knows that he can't lie to me. This has helped build our relationship.
    If you are a new teacher, I think it's important to always want to see your students succeed. If they see they have a caring teacher, they are more likely to work harder and put in quality work. I always try to have a balanced relationship with my students where they know I am a caring teacher, but I have expectations and those expectations are very important in my room.

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  21. As a team last year, one of our goals was to build relationships with our students. We started by creating birthday banners and gifted cookies to our students on their birthdays. If they had a summer birthday we acknowledge it at the end of the year. We also created after school work sessions two days a week where the students that needed extra help/attention were able to get the one on one time they needed. Lastly, we had a field day towards the end of school that allowed for some friendly homeroom competition all the while building our unity as a team. The little changes we made as a team brought us closer to our students as well as closer as colleagues.

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  22. I am a preschool teacher and I agree with A. Skirvin that it might be easier with these younger students because they can't wait to tell you what they love. I also agree with Charli Sparks that building a relationship with the parents, if you can, is just as important. Even though we share "our favorites" at the beginning of the year, I think I will add it to my portfolio assessments and that way we can build teaching around the student's favorites!! I love this chapter and I love the team building portion. I will definitely bring that one up for a new idea in our school.

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  23. Building relationships with our students from day one is so important. I have my students do an information sheet all about their interests and hopes and wishes. I revisit these pages throughout the year to remind me what each student wrote. I also read our daily announcements to hear of athletic successes and other important tidbits about my students’ lives. I had one student that was having a very successful year playing on the basketball team. He had never played on the high school team. I would mention his successes in the hallway and in class; he always lit up like a star…grinning from ear to ear. His family life is a mess, but he is a star on the court. It is the little things that mean the most to our students.
    A piece of advice, always try to find at least one good quality in every student and find at least one positive thing to say to each student everyday because it may be the only good thing they hear that day. Always begin and end a class on a positive note.

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  24. I'm also a Title I teacher and I find that once you know the students on a personal level, you can start to understand your student and find out how to make your class relevant to them. Many junior high students pretend like they don't want to "like" their teachers or get to know their teachers, but they really are just looking for your acceptance and love.
    One way I really get to know my students (and collect a beginning of the year writing sample) is to have the students write a letter of introduction to me! They include what their homes are like, what they like, hobbies, favorites, etc. as well as a personal goal for the school year. I find out that it helps me understand my students a lot. I make copies of the letters to keep for my files and then I make sure to write meaningful comments back on all of the letters and return them! I also make it a point to collect their notebooks once every two weeks and not only grade them, but find a place in an entry to make a comment that is meaningful.

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  25. This year I started a small mentoring group with 6 students. We meet once a week during lunch. They bring their lunch to my room and we get to "hang out" and go over some test taking strategies and tips. They have realized that I am there to help them be successful which makes them comfortable with me and they tend to act more like themselves in this smaller setting rather than always trying to be someone they're not in front of peers. I have learned a lot about these students already this year and can't wait to see where our relationships are by the end of the year.

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  26. Week 2- Chapter 1- Chemistry

    We all have a “Freddie” in our classroom- and in many cases, more than one…… and as author Kim Bearden states, “Those who are the most difficult to love often need love the most.

    One key point that I took to heart was on page 9, when she wondered what her classroom looked like from Freddie’s perspective. I stopped for a moment in the midst of reading and really thought about what she had just said. How many times have I really thought about what’s going through the head of “Freddie.” It’s very easy to place all the blame for unbridled relationships in the classroom on the shoulders of the student. If we truly want to know what really matters to someone else- we have to take the time to ask.

    The second point of reference from chapter 1, is the author’s admittal that it’s not always easy to love all students. However, she continues by saying, “.....they, too, are God’s children and He has a purpose for each of them.” As we strive to build healthy relationships with our students, we have to go above and beyond and focus on their goodness.

    We all have a “Freddie” story or two that we can share, and admittedly, I have a few new ones already developing this year. However, before sharing, I would offer one piece of advice based on many years of experience- …… start fresh each year. It’s so easy to succumb to negative feedback and historical gossip that is tattered and handed down year to year- teacher to teacher. A healthy relationship cannot be fostered from a scarred beginning. Show your commitment to each individual student with an open mind and willingness to understand their ideas and perspectives.

    My “Freddie” story- I have “Freddie” three class periods this year. He came to me with a scarred resume, which I elected to ignore. After three short days of school, it was apparent that he was truly a “test of love.” We sat outside of class one day and had a heart to heart talk, each sharing our expectations……….. Long story short- he now is my go-to person in my media class, as his talents in social media and film production are outstanding. He has even requested to take the class the rest of the year. His contributions in Humanities, are further evidence of his personal beliefs in himself and his abilities. It could have been so easy for both of us to give up on each other- …… it’s still not perfect; he has setbacks- but we all do. It goes with the territory in building healthy relationships with our students.

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    1. I love your point about starting fresh each year! How true! I often know a little bit about some students and wish I didn't so I could judge them for myself.

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  27. I believe that you can get 'more' out of your students if they know that you care about them. As teachers, we do care about our students, but it is through our relationships with each of them that they recognize and believe that we care. It is not just about having a great lesson planned everyday, but about investing in their lives. Once a student sees a teacher investing in them, then most students will work harder, try harder, and care more about that class (b/c of that teacher).
    I remember a student from years ago that really stands out for question number 2, his name was Chris and he was very introverted. The first time that I was having the class do a skit in Spanish he was very nervous, so I worked with him on a different way to grade his efforts to prove that he knew the material...then for the next skit, he wanted to try it with the class...needless to say, when he saw that I cared about him and was willing to help him through his struggles to get in front of the class, he begin to want to try harder. By the end of the second year he was in my class, he ended up singing in front of an auditorium packed full of students in Spanish and as the students started coming up to the stage he kept singing and was giving them high fives! He thanked me soo much after that experience for pushing him and caring about him and wanting to help him. That experience is one that continues to motivate me as a teacher to invest in each kid as an individual and to find ways to show them that I care about them.
    My advice to other teachers trying to build relationships with students is: find ways to support them in their activities outside of school...I go to each team's sporting events (the JV kids and the minor sport athletes-like the tennis match I was at last night-those kids appreciate it the most), I go to the plays and musicals (even ones that are at the local civic theater), I go to band and choir concerts, and I find anything that any student is involved in and try to support them outside of the classroom b/c of the results that I then get from them inside of the classroom. I have three daughters and so my wife and I just make our 'date' nights and family activities coincide with my goals of building relationships with my students by attending their events.

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  28. Relationship building is certainly an important part of our jobs as educators. I am in my second year of teaching and I think it is easy to fall into the trap of "robotic teaching" (as someone mentioned above) if you feel insecure or are not comfortable reaching out to the students on a personal level. It's also difficult to ride the line between being too buddy-buddy with the students if you fear you will lose that aspect of classroom management that is so important. It might take a couple of years to find that balance, but once you do it makes your teaching more effective.

    I've found that being a coach (I coach cross-country) also helps establish a stronger bond between students, even if those students are not part of your specific sport. You can begin to have conversations with students that aren't directly related to the subject you teach, which is something kids appreciate. Coaching sports is just one example. If that isn't your interest, pick up an academic club or some other extracurricular. The point is, if students see you outside of the classroom, you can relate to them on a different level than just "did you finish your Biology homework?"

    For those of you who are in your first or second year of teaching, don't be afraid to reach out to your students. If you do it properly, your classroom management will actually be strengthened. Be as positive as possible, even when your students don't respond they way you want them to. As a high school teacher, I get a lot of "deer in the headlight" looks from my students. Don't let that discourage you. Students respond to positivity, it just might take awhile. Finally, remember to let your students know you care. This can get lost in the midst of paperwork, test scores, and lesson plans. A great time to do this is during passing period. As you walk the halls, have mini-conversations with the kids. Ask them questions and listen to their answers. You will gain respect with students if they know you are an approachable human being.

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  29. As a high school teacher, I’m not with the same kids all day, but in the 50 minutes I do see them every day, I try to not only teach them content, but develop a relationship with each student. Some make it more difficult than others, but I find that the ones who do have a connection with me, tend to perform better in my class. One part that really stood out to me from chapter 1 was, “When we show others that their interests matter to us, we are making meaningful steps toward developing lasting bonds and trust.” Getting to know students is more than just playing a get-to-know-you game on the first day of school. I often give my classes a survey at the beginning of the year which allows me to see not only their interests in reading and writing, but also what they do outside of my classroom. Sometimes I find out a lot about students by reading personal narrative essays. This is something I purposely assign in the first few weeks of school because it allows me to see themselves through their own eyes and learn snippets of their life experiences. Other times I learn about students by watching how they interact with peers during group assignments. Most often however, I learn about students by taking the time to ask questions about their life outside of my class. I want them to know I’m interested in what sports or clubs they participate in, where they work, their family life, etc. This usually doesn’t take place during class time, but before class, or after class, just in chatting with a student about what’s going on in their world at that moment.

    I taught at a high school in which we had special classes for kids who had been in trouble, had attendance issues, etc, but were not alternative school type kids. One of my students in that group of classes was a girl I will never forget. It was my first year of teaching. She gave me a rough time at first, but over the course of the semester, after many instances of showing interest in her life (as dysfunctional as it was, to no fault of her own), she opened up to me in ways no other student ever has to this day. I called her my little winglet; I took her under my wing. Near the end of that school year, after we had finished up a poetry unit, she approached me with a book of original poetry. She had written over 10 poems, and had dedicated the book to me. I was in awe as I read her dedication piece about how much I inspired her and helped her through one of the roughest years of her life. She had used writing as an outlet. I still get teary eyed thinking about it to this day. I know that every year I won’t make as meaningful of a connection with a student like I did with this girl, but to have that relationship to look back on, and know that I made a difference in her life, is something I will never forget.

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  30. Last year, I had a class that I can describe as very "spirited." I had recently come back after a year of maternity leave, and the previous sub had let the students somewhat take over the show. I often struggled with curbing extra talking and distracting behaviors in class. It was clear that the students had forgotten me and/or my expectations while I was gone. Some of the key students kept asking me if they could come in during homeroom for extra practice. It would mean eating in my room, and I was mentally tired of some of their behaviors after class each day, so I wasn't very excited by the prospect. I decided to try it a few times to see what might happen. In the end, it ended up working out nicely. The students got to have their extra practice, but more importantly, we were able to spend some time talking and getting to know each other better. We came to an understanding - I began to get to know them and their need for a creative outlet. The students knew that if they acted up in class, they would not be allowed to participate in the homeroom sessions. Most of the students in the small group began to respect the expectations better during class. And as classroom leaders, their improved behavior had an overall effect on the entire class. In the end, I was glad to have said yes when they asked for the extra time. Eating my lunch at my desk rather than in the teacher's lounge every once in a while was a small sacrifice that paid off by building relationships with these students.

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  31. Obviously building relationships with students is a large part of being a teacher. I find that with teaching geometry, the students are more willing to ask for help when they feel comfortable with me. It is difficult for them to admit that they do not understand how to do a certain problem.

    I find though that with high school students it takes time. As the semester goes on the teacher/student relationship improves. I find that during the second half of the semester, questions pick up and the confidence level improves, especially those who struggle with math.

    Unfortunately at our school, many of the students schedules get rearranged at the semester break. I find that I finally learned what strategies really work by Nov/Dec with each student and then I have to start over in January with a new group.

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  32. In my experience, relationship building is one of the most important parts of my job. When I build a positive relationship with students it is amazing what can happen. Students will try harder, and show greater willingness to seek help, if I have established a good relationship with them. It also makes for a much more pleasant work environment. I have a lot of fun with my students.

    Sometimes, relationship building can be very difficult. I don't always connect with students, but I think when I don't, that is when extra effort is critical. At times, life has caused kids to become wary and hardened. They are reluctant to trust, but as the adult in the relationship, I feel that it is my job to keep reaching out. I have a student I'm trying to draw near now. I don't know if I am going to be successful, but I truly feel that if I don't succeed this child will eventually become a dropout with very few options. That seems like a price to high to pay for me to stop trying.

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  33. I will post my full response later, but I wanted to mention that this chapter of the book is currently available for free on iBooks. (still waiting for my copy to arrive)

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  34. We can all agree that establishing relationships with students is extremely important. However, working at a large school with a high volume of students on my roster sometimes makes that very difficult. It takes several weeks just to learn everyone's name! But, I have learned that sometimes just finding that one little thing we can talk about might make all the difference. I try to pay attention to whether or not they are wearing a jersey on game days -- then we can talk about their sport. Or maybe they wear t-shirts that let me know they are in marching band, on an academic team, or in the school play. I also try to watch the local paper for the names of students who might be involved in activities outside of school that are getting some attention. Talking to them about the things they enjoy and are proud of outside of class can open the lines of communication and build trust and comfort. Once that comfort level is established, they are much more likely to ask for help when they need it.

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  35. I believe relationship building is crucial to getting through to some of the students who need it the most. Some of the students that I worked with didn't have any adult interaction at home before school because of parent jobs or lack of parent involvement. One particular student that I had in the past was in general education classes for half of the day in our building and special education classes for the rest. He told me once during a conversation about favorite teachers, that his favorite classes were his general education classes because he loved math. But his favorite teachers were his special education teachers because the others ignored him or didn't even talk to him most days. He didn't have my class until right before lunch which meant he was at school from 7:15 until almost 11:00 without a positive interaction from an adult some days.

    I found that talking the the students about even the simplest things, what they had for dinner the night before or what they were going to do over the weekend on a daily basis, made them more likely to ask for help as the year progressed.

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    1. I feel as though you said it perfectly. I am a Special Education teacher for 5th grade students. When my students are having a bad day it really comes down to what happened throughout the day, not just at school. Some of my student adore me even though they don't have me for a high majority of the day. They feel as though I am a safe person that is always there to listen. I understand them and let them work through their feelings even when it looks as though they are just being "bad" in class. It comes down to a support system and the relationship I have built with them.

      Students are like books. You have to look past their covers to truly see them. Even those who shine need those positive relationships. This makes the journey much more enjoyable for all.

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  36. Building relationships with my students is one of the first steps I seek out during the school year. A lot of my students struggle in general education behaviorally. Therefore, they are often viewed as being the "bad kid." A lot of these "bad kids" I absolutely adore because I have taken the time to get to know them. With some of my students, building the relationship takes longer than it does with others because of the walls that they have put up to "protect" themselves. I love that I get to work with a lot of the same students throughout the four years that they are in school. Strong relationships are built over those four years.

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  37. I agree with Sandy Guzwiller about ending class each day on a positive note. I teach band and can literally do just that. After introducing new concepts, songs or notes, I try to end class with a "Blast from the Past." I ask students to give me a number of a song we have played earlier in the year and then we play it. They all have their favorites and are eager to be picked. I take this opportunity to call on a student who has had a particularly challenging day in class or has been struggling. That student will always choose a song they know and instead of leaving class frustrated by new material, they leave with a sense of accomplishment.

    Like the author and so many other bloggers above, I find the best way to forge relationships with students is to find out their interests. I am blessed with two sons who have schooled me on their hobbies. This information has transferred well to my classroom. Band students tend to be the nerdy type and often feel left out when teachers talk about sports. When I comment on a shirt, piece of jewelry, or doodles on their papers, they are amazed that I know all about memes, video games, anime, manga, and various card games. The students can't wait to tell me more about their particular pastime. Most adults don't take the time to learn about these things. If you're not sure what a design on a shirt means, ask the student about it and Google it. Who knows? You may discover a new interest for yourself.

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  38. This chapter really hit home for me. I have a very spirited and challenging student this year. I hate to admit that some days have been a struggle and our chemistry is not always productive. But, just as Bearden says, those kiddos that are the hardest to love usually need our love the most. My little guy has had a rough start to his young life. I am committed to building a strong relationship to ensure his success in 4th grade. I am hopeful that my consistent attempts at bonding with him will result in both of us having a happy year.

    One of the parts that touched me the most was when Bearden talked about seeing the world through Freddie's eyes and how he must see the frustration, impatience, and irritation on others' faces. I couldn't help but feel sad that my student has surely seen those emotions on my face at one time or another. The next day, and every day since reading this chapter, I have made a conscious effort to change my attitude. When I find myself getting annoyed at having to remind him for the 4th time to keep his hands to himself or when I am frustrated that he ignores my directions, I flip the switch and remind myself that it's my job to guide him and support him. It doesn't do either of us any good if I'm cranky. Still, some days are great and some days aren't. I guess we are both a work in progress!

    If I could give advice to a new teacher, it would be to take the time to build those strong bonds and the supportive community of learners. It is so worth it. As our high stakes tests keep getting more intense and the standards are filling up our brains, it is tempting to push those "extra" activities to the side. Teaching the students that your classroom is a safe place to take risks will lead to greater academic success. Teaching your students how much you care will help them feel comfortable working outside their usual box and taking risks. Building a community where we are all valued and respected will allow each student to blossom and reach their full potential. I spend most of the first month of school working on creating a strong learning community. Our happy and successful year depends on it.

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  39. I teach students who arrive in high school not quite at grade level with math skills. I find that I need to patiently work on building rapport with my students so they will feel comfortable asking me questions. It takes a lot of effort and time but it is so important. Once I get my students asking me questions, I know that they can be successful. Through questions and discussions I can adjust my instruction to meet the individual needs of my students. It is hard work but worth it.

    I love the individual differences and my job is certainly never boring. While I am never a friend, I make sure my students understand that I believe in them and am willing to work hard to give them the help that they need.

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  40. As an administrator, it has been a challenge to get to know kids as deeply as I did when I was in the classroom as a teacher. One way I have really enjoyed getting to know my students beyond the school day is by sponsoring a Cooking Club at school. As of yesterday, we were up to 52 kids involved! Over the year I get to know these kids on a personal level and really enjoy helping them to make a connection to our school.

    I really enjoyed the quote in there that addressed tough kids. It said, "Those who are the most difficult to love often need love the most." I totally agree with this. I can equate this across more than just students based on the variety of stakeholders I interact with...and man, it feels really good when I can make that connection and create a more positive experience for everyone involved (including myself)!

    Advice I give to colleagues is to connect on something positive as quickly into the year as possible. This means with parents and students. Truly look for the good and go out of your way to acknowledge that in some capacity!

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  41. "Kids don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care." I attempt to stay busy with plenty of extracurriculars outside of the classroom to help connect on a greater level with students. My freshman Planning for College and Careers class has a community service project to complete the first semester. We have a lot of students with transportation issues, or lack of initiative to find an outside of school community service project. We offer recycling in the school that they assist with during their activity period three times a week. It's good to get kids involved with recycling as a lifestyle and I get a chance to interact with some kids who aren't our strongest while we do some good for the school and Earth. We also have a announcements "show" that they film a couple of times a week. I get an opportunity to interact with kids on a deeper level as they do fun things to attempt to make our announcements more memorable or entertaining and work on communication and lots of other life skills. The show, called ManeStream, has now turned into a telecommunications class. It's been a great opportunity for a lot of our kids to "shine." We also started an FCA this year which has been a great opportunity to watch kids step out of their comfort zones to lead bible studies and meetings. We've done some leadership training so far, and again, I get to see kids and relate to kids on a different level. As a school employee that is a tricky line, but the kids know I cared enough to start it, and they are off and running with it hoping to impact their school and teams. With all of this and my classroom duties, I've coached softball for 5 years now, and coached basketball off and on over the stint of my teaching career. I can't imagine life without attempting to make deeper connections to kids. Sometimes kids that have no affiliation with any of the above things I've mentioned still connect to me because they see all I'm involved in. No one wants a stiff, unconnected teacher; so I feel all of these extras enhance my daily classroom life as well!

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  42. I believe it's really important that we greet each child daily that comes through our classroom door, rather it be every morning or with each passing period, with a smile and some positive form of greeting...it might be the only smile that child receives the whole day. Then in my classroom at the end of the day, each child chooses one of the 3 H's...handshake, hug or high-5. ( I teach 1st gr.) :)
    I have parents fill out a child info & interest page at "Meet Your Teacher Night" a couple days before school starts. This really helped one year when a little boy was in tears because he couldn't think of anything to write about and couldn't tell me anything he liked to do. I looked at his page that his Dad had filled out and saw that he liked Legos. He smiled and his face lit up when I asked him if he liked to play with Legos.
    In my Guided Reading groups, I look for books that I know will interest the particular children in that group. I look for strengths and talents in each child and use those to designate each child as our "specialist" in that area....examples: fishing specialist, dancing specialist, piano specialist, etc... Sometimes you have to look hard, but you will find something! :)

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  44. I have always considered building relationships with students as one of my strengths and one of the most rewarding experiences in our profession. Letting students know that you care about them and that you are there for them is important. I find myself searching for ways to build a stronger rapport with students who might be a bit more difficult, it is more difficult at times, but it can be very rewarding and can make a huge difference in the classroom. One of the most difficult students I have ever taught was in my 3rd year of teaching, I worked on getting to know him throughout the year, we often had difficulties, but at the end of the year, I was moving and leaving the school, he was one of a few students who helped me to pack my room and carry boxes out to my car. It made me realize that perhaps, even with all of the difficulties we had throughout the year, that my efforts were worth it.

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  45. Relationship building is so very important. Sometimes we have an idea, but other times we have no idea what really goes on in the homes of students. Our students need to feel safe and secure with their teachers. They need to know we are a trusted adult who cares for and will protect them. I can think of a particular student off hand that needed a positive female influence in their life. It took some time, but a wonderful relationship was formed and the student thrived both academically and socially. It is not easy to form relationships with every student based on the number of students in your class as well as the academic demands. I often feel that there simply isn't tine, but it is so important to make that personal connection with each student. Also, I love when former students come up to me years later to catch up, what a perfect example of the positive effects of relationship building.

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  46. Building relationships in education is important. It takes time and respect on both sides for the classroom relationships to build. Since the classroom has different students every year the way the teacher approaches this will also be different every year.

    My approach is being honest from the beginning with the students plus I really believe in setting a routine. And if I have to change the routine for some reason I give the students as much lead time that there will be a change and what it is. I also open my first day of classes saying that I will have bad days from time to time and so will you. I will let you know when I am having a bad day and please let me know when you are. When a student comes and says they are having a bad day I say we are doing this today and can you do 20% of todays assignments. I have never had a student say no and 9 times out of 10 the student will do at least 75% of the work instead of 20%.

    I know some teachers feel that when they build relationships that they want to be their friend or buddy. I believe that you are their teacher for most and if you extend it past that when they are in your classroom then problems can set in.

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  47. Building relationships is by far the most important quality in being an effective teacher (next to knowing the material you are to teach).

    When someone is asked the question, "Who was your favorite teacher?" Most answers relate to a teacher that took time to make a connection and give time to the relationship. Whether the teacher took extra time to explain a concept, talk to a kid about issues outside of school, help with school issues, support them in their goals, or fill in the blank (we do a lot as educators), the student realizes that time was given. Time to build a connection which forms a trusting bond. When we take time to do this, for many kids, we are giving them hope. Too many people and kids are hopeless in this life. We can serve as a vessel to not only give knowledge but also wisdom and hope for those that need it most.

    My advice is to build a healthy relationship with yourself. Know who you are as a person. Be professional but not uptight. Be sincere--if not, they will read right through it! Don't bring your own 'stuff' into it.

    Kids will always remember how you treated them, not what you said in a lecture.

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  48. As I read this section, I felt more frustration with this system of goal writing and quantitative evidence. When, you hear students talking at the beginning of the year, or in the hallway about a teacher, it's not usually about the great lesson, but about the person. Educators who can "reach" students often do so in a manner that is not always quantitative, at least, not immediately. We can create lessons, attend ec events, and reach out to those people in our rooms. The results of that interest in these individuals may not result in higher ISTEP scores, but may affect attendance and graduation rates, lower suspensions/expulsions, but not directly affect any standardized assessment that directly impact my own educator score. The results of our work with a particular student may not bear fruit until a year or decade later (preventing a suicide).

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  49. This school year begins my second year of teaching along with building new relationships with my students. One of the most important things I learned in my first year of teaching is how students respect, respond and are more willing to learn from a teacher they trust and have a strong relationship with. It is not about being the coolest or nicest teacher in the building but being the teacher who will listen to a student’s concerns and give them feedback on how they can be successful in school and life.

    One thing Purdue’s education classes taught me was knowing your students’ likes and dislikes. I try to find real life examples of how the lesson I am presenting applies to their lives (ex. making their cell phones, video games, building houses, computer programs, etc.) Although it is hard to find activities in math that can capture everyone’s attention, I have discovered if you put the subject aside and tell your students you care and want to see them succeed they perk up a little more in class.

    Something else I have found helpful with building strong relationships is to be tough on my students. I never let them feel like I am their best friend, their parent or someone who will just feed them all positives. I give them the truth but in a constructive way. If I see them not working hard on something they can accomplish I tell them. From this “tough love” relationship, I have heard my students say how I push them to do the best they can.

    Lastly, I believe building student relationships cannot end once they have passed your class. When I see former students in the halls I make sure to stop them, ask how their new semester is going and offer them help if they ever need anything. I think it one thing to offer additional help when they are your own student but your strong relationship shines when they see you are persistent on helping them when they are not in your class.

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  50. This was truly and inspiring chapter. It even made me cry. Maybe because we all have students who need us to connect with them. In the past I have tried to build a relationship with troubled students and it has often worked but I know I need to do a better. I teach first graders and most are more than willing to share their favorite this and that but I this chapter has inspired me to do more to use those favorites in teaching my lessons. I came up with a short survey for them to answer and hopefully I can use this as a starting point. Hope everyone has a great start to a new school year.

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  51. One of the most rewarding experiences I had was when I was a high school librarian and every teacher was assigned a group of students to mentor. I was lucky because I got freshmen and was able to mentor and develop relationships with those students for the next four years. Some of them told me they would have never graduated high school if it hadn't been for my support. I always made a big deal out of each student's birthday bringing in food that they had requested to celebrate their special day. Many of these students have gone on to college, gotten jobs, gotten married, had children, etc. Seeing them succeed is what it's all about!

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  52. Have you ever felt like, "If a group of us could come together and start our own school, we could do great things?" This is what I felt in reading the introduction to this book. I appreciate knowing the varied backgrounds of the students there, and would love to visit the school.

    I really enjoyed reading Bearden's story about Freddie, and felt her despair as she described Mitchell. The best thing I ever experienced in regards to relationship-building with students was when I was on a high-functioning interdisciplinary team of teachers. We truly did become a family. We got to know the students and parents better, and shared suggestions, communications, and many experiences. I think back to one of my most difficult students, "Clyde" Clyde clearly plagiarized a science paper, even copying the complex title. When I showed his mother the page printed directly from the web beside his submitted assignment, she said I was picking on him! He had spent hours in his room working on it! In the meantime, Clyde was at the table crying crocodile tears. This mother was somewhat involved, so I restrained myself the rest of the year, and treaded very lightly with Clyde. I didn't know that things improved any, but they didn't get worse.

    Fast forward 12 years or so, and Clyde became a substitute at our school. He profusely apologized to me over and over, went out of his way to help me, etc. He is now an administrator in Indianapolis! I don't know that anything I did had any effect at all, but he did say that he appreciated that I didn't pile on any punishment when he clearly deserved it.

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  53. I agree with Adelle and Charli from earlier posts that building the relationships with the parents is imperative to having a positive relationship with the students. When teachers build a relationship with the parents and the students see this, the students will be more apt in wanting to work hard. My first 4 years of teaching was in Atlanta at a school that was 90% Hispanic. I don’t speak Spanish and this being my first year of teaching, I had a hard time building that relationship with parents. I tried the best I could, but I know I did not contact parents as often as I should have or would have liked to. I was intimidated because of the language barrier. Our interpreter was extremely busy, so I often just didn’t call parents.
    Now I’m at a different school, yet in a similar situation. I’m the ESL teacher and I try hard to build that relationship with the parents. I feel my experiences and more years of teaching have helped me understand the importance of the relationship building and to have the confidence to do this. I have a wonderful interpreter and I feel like I’m more confident in trying to use the very little Spanish that I do know. And because I try to communicate with parents, I’m a familiar face to them. This is some of the parents’ first experience with school (I teach Kindergarten ESL), so we work really hard at making them feel comfortable.

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  54. This chapter was truly inspiring. It is vital to build these important relationships with our students. My first year of teaching I had a struggling student who wanted to quit on everything before he even started. At the beginning of our journey together it was a battle back and forth. Then, as I slowly started to see it was not working for either one of us I intervened. I sat down with the student (a fourth grader) and had a heart to heart. We were both in tears by the end of the conversation (happy tears). This was our turning point that helped us both tremendously. I have heard teachers say the letters in LISTEN are also in SILENT, but as teachers we need to take this advice to heart and let our students' voices be heard too. I am now in my fourth year of teaching and each year it seems to get harder to see my class move on to the next grade. I think it is also hard for the parents of the students to see them move on. Those relationships you start building with the children also occur with the parents, and on a daily basis in my room. The parents get in a routine of newsletters on Fridays, notes in agendas, and other classroom procedures they learn too. I have found listening to the parents I learn so much more about my students and can help my students succeed. These connections, both with parents and students, are some I will never forget.

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  55. This chapter addresses something I don't understand when other teachers DON'T UNDERSTAND. How can we not get to know our students and teach them? How can we not ask them about life and show interest and offer guidance and advice when needed? How does the fact that we are the "teachers" and they are the "children" hinder us from creating a bond? Answer: it shouldn't. I take joy in getting to know my students. Last year I had a couple of extremely difficult students. Neither of those relationships ended well, so this year I decided to take a different route. Instead of labeling the trouble makers as trouble makers for life, I decided I wouldn't label them, but treat them like normal students. My lack of assuming they were getting in trouble or not doing what they were supposed to isn't 100 percent perfect, but it has changed the kids' attitude toward me. One student especially, I "knew" was going to be trouble. Early on, I established discipline with him, and he has responded well. Now, he respects and trusts me to do what is best for him. I'm even mentoring him -- because he knows I don't define him by his bad behavior! Super good lesson for everyone to learn!

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  56. Building relationships seems to be at the core of most all learning. When respect and trust exist, the student (and parent) will begin to become engaged. While this is a simple concept, complications can occur when communication breaks down.

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  57. I have been teaching for 9 years and I this chapter is SO TRUE! Relationships are the core getting through to any student, especially the more difficult learner. Once a student knows that you have a genuine interest in them, doors are opened as to what they can do. Some of the most "difficult students" happen to be my favorite! All students just want to feel important and want to matter to someone. When they feel like they matter, they want to succeed. It seems like a no brainer when you think about it but this chapter reiterated just how important it can be to take the time to build these relationships. The story about Bearden and Freddie struck a chord with me. When you look through the other's eyes it opens doors.

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  58. As a Special Education teacher, I truly believe that relationships can be make-it or break-it. Many teachers often say that I am always putting out fires when it comes to behavior issues. Well, yes! That’s part of my job. The biggest part of my job, however, is building relationships with my students. It is important to know how your students are able to function in school as well as at home. Until I know the student I feel like I am against a wall when it comes to behavior. Not only is it frustrating for me as well as the student, it makes difficult situations difficult to handle.
    One student I have worked with can be considered very difficult to work with. I even believed this at first. I try to find the best in all of my students. However, at first, I just couldn’t connect with this student. I tried, tried, and tried again. After writing notes day after day, I began to notice a pattern. Seeing this gave me confidence that I may have actually figured out some of the issues that were causing problems at school. Once I was able to sit down with the student it was as though the rain clouds had disappeared and the sun was out and smiling. The problems we were having became almost non-existent.
    My advice to other teachers is to make notes about everything, especially things you don’t notice important at first. By being able to recall things, the students feel as though you are truly listening. Later on, you will be able to make connections and remember things that you may not have remembered if you hadn't wrote it down. You may also be able to recognize patterns when things are going great or not so great. Plus, its great documentation when you need it!

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    1. Good point, Lydia- the behavior problems lesson (or at least you can comprehend the source behind the problem) when you get to know the student as a person. Empathy is a powerful connection!

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  59. I start most days with song of greeting. (Jack Hartman's "This is my school family." Classmates give pinky hugs, high fives, wave, and connect in many ways during the song. Immediately after, I pick three students to tell us something special about themselves. We hear everything you can imagine! Because I know that everyone wants to be heard, I then give them two minutes to turn and talk to a neighbor about something special. Not only does this help me get to know my students better, it gives them the opportunity to build relationships with each other! I also make it a point to learn the names of brothers and sisters and other important people to the children. It helps me know them better when I know about their family.

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  60. I agree fostering relationships is a key to being an effective educator. A couple years ago we started SOS ( Save One Student) school wide. Every staff member is partnered up to a student that we feel would benefit from a closer relationship with an adult. Someone to ask the how their day is going, make regular check ins, and to really get to know them. It's amazing how well this works and how quickly you can make meaningful connections with students. Once the connections happen and the students feel comfortable and safe, then the real learning my begin.

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  61. I also agree that building a relationship can be the key to a students success however that can prove to be very difficult. Last year was my first year teaching high school and yes I feel like much of that year was spend putting out fires. But already this year I have been able to see the rewards of being with those students through those tough times. I now am able to share in their successes, which they are extremely proud to come and share with me. My goal this year is to do more mentoring and less putting out fires. The trick is now trying to build new relationships with the freshman while maintaining and fostering the ones from last year. Not enough hours in the day!

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  62. I typically have one class a day that is full of your "trouble maker" kids....they are the ADHD kids, the unmotivated kids, the ones who CAN do it, but just can't seem to get it done. They are assigned to this class based on ISTEP scores, and my job is to remediate their skills. Often what I find is that it isn't their skills that are lacking...it is their perception of school, teachers, tests etc. Building relationships with these kids, teaching them that reading CAN be fun, that math doesn't HAVE to be awful, and that I can like them and care about them for exactly who they are has been the best remediation I can find for these students.

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  63. I believe connecting with your students and building that relationship with them is imperative. If the students see that you truly care about them and want them to do well, I believe they will do more for you. Due to the nature of the subject that I teach, Family and Consumer Sciences, I think our topics lead to building those relationships a little bit faster. I learn about students' families, home lives, etc and really get a glimpse into who is in my classroom. I try to take into consideration what I see in my classroom when I am grading work, having class discussions, doing projects. There is no better feeling than when a student comes back and says "thank you" or lets you know that you inspired them in some way. The relationships are key in the classroom and when they see that, a direct correlation with the work you get from that student will shine through.

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  64. I enjoyed reading this chapter and the chapter that followed. (Did not pay attended and read right onto the next chapter. : ) ) Relationships with students matter with students. I have a few special education resource study halls this year. Students need to feel comfortable and that they are valued in order to share what they need to be working on in their classes and to ask for help. I have one class of freshman boys. One in particular is not very open, but likes cars and to talk about them. I shared with him a car website and introduced him to the German teacher so that the German teacher could pronounce a German car for him. I have least been able to get him to let me review some of his math assignment. Hopefully, he will eventually be willing to work on his English. I also teach a resource English class. That class was a little bit easier to get started because most of the students I worked with last year. I am tried to included their different interests in some of the choices I give them for their independent reading.
    Thank you everyone for your posts. I is encouraging to read what others are doing and the importance to not give up on the students that challenge us the most.

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  65. The importance of relationships in the classroom can sometimes be lost in the shuffle amongst all the other "hats" that we wear as teachers. The quote, "The most powerful relationships occur when we willingly give of ourselves and seek to understand others" reminds me of The Seven Habits of Happy kids -- the Leader in Me. Habit # 5 says seek first to understand, then to be understood-- meaning to listen to others viewpoints, uninterrupted, looking them in the eyes, and putting your own agenda to the side while listening. This is critical for the foundation and development of all relationships, and the beginning of some potentially great ones!

    Building relationships is an important skill that needs to be continuously worked on between teacher/student but also a skill to be modeled for all students. I have always put a big emphasis on relationships in kindergarten, especially at the beginning of the year, to help kids feel comfortable, confident, and most importantly begin developing a love of learning in a safe environment. Luckily, in kindergarten there is usually still a huge desire by students to also develop this relationship!

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