As I mentioned in my previous post, these past few summers I worked at a literacy camp. It was a 6 week program, and although some campers stayed the same throughout the entire 6 weeks, there were many that changed weekly. This made getting to know my campers that much harder.
Since each student is so unique, I had to make the lessons connect to their interests and experiences so that they would be engaged and it was relevant to them (Drake, Reid and Kolohon, 2014). This was simple to do with the campers that stayed all 6 weeks, because I developed such amazing relationships with them, and I knew all their likes and dislikes. However, it was very difficult to create that same relationship with the campers that changed weekly because there just was not enough time to get to know them well enough. Just as I finally felt like I was creating a relationship with a camper, and knew how to modify and adapt things to their needs, it would be Friday, and I wouldn’t see them again until next summer. Then, on Monday, I’d have to start all over again…
One of my favourite ice-breaker games that I used to play with my campers was something called ‘People Bingo’. The goal of the game was to find someone who fulfills your bingo squares in a line, like bingo. I would always participate in this game, because I thought it was a really great way to get to know my campers, and for them to get to know me! Below is an example of a People Bingo board, but there can obviously be many variations to it!
Luckily, the school year is not quiet as short as camp, and you have the same students for almost 10 months. So teachers should have no excuse! Getting to know your students is like a secret weapon; there are many benefits to it, and it is really very simple to do! In the following video, Danny Brassel discusses the importance of opening up to your students so that they would open up to you. I really enjoyed his speech, and I think you would too!
Not only is getting to know your students important because it allows you to tailor your lessons to their individual needs but it also helps decrease behavioral problems. Education World (2012) claims that “building positive relationships with your students is the number one way to forestall any behavioral problems that can arise in the classroom”. This is true for multiple reasons. Firstly, creating this relationship will allow your students to know you better, and have more respect for you. The more they respect you, the more they will behave in your classroom (Education World, 2012). Secondly, by getting to know your students you show that you care about them. You show them that you are willing to take time out of your day to talk to them, and learn about them. This makes them like you, not just as a teacher, but also as a person, and they will likely not want to disappoint you by misbehaving (Education World, 2012). Additionally, by knowing your students and their personalities, you have a better understanding of how they will interact with one another. This will help you when you are creating groups, and you would be able to predict which student partnerships will result in behavioural problems, and as a result you can diffuse the situation before it happens (Education World, 2012).
I can definitely say that I saw this phenomenon happen right before my eyes at camp. The campers that I had for all 6 weeks were much better behaved than those that were only there for 1-2 weeks, and that can certainly be an extension of the fact that I developed such significant relationships with them.
Furthermore, the importance of getting to know your students is not restricted to in-person classrooms. With the current rapid rise in technology, online classrooms are becoming more and more popular. Jodie Ginsbach (2015) has been an online educator for almost 7 years at an online public charter school for students in grades K-12. Here she discusses her initial worries about not being able to develop that relationship with her students in an online environment, and how easy it was to her surprise. She was able to establish a bond with her students in a virtual setting, and she was actually able to get more one-on-one interaction with her students in this setting than when she was in a traditional classroom.
The difference that a good relationship with your students can make would surprise you! Listen to Simon, try it!
Beassell, D. [Danny Brassell]. (2009, June 11). Motivational Speaker Danny Brassell: Getting to Know Your Students [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjeY6Nu4IAs
Bingo [online image]. (2012). Retrieved from URL (http://www.allensteachingfiles.com/2012/08/get-to-know-you-activities-beautiful.html)
Drake, S. M., Reid, J.L. & Kolohon, W. (2014). Interweaving curriculum and classroom assessment: Engaging the 21st century learner. Toronto, ON: Oxford University Press.
Education World. (2012). The secret weapon: Getting to know your students [Web blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/columnists/mcdonald/mcdonald013.shtml
Ginsbach, J. (2015, September 30). What’s it like to be an online teacher? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/local/stayton/opinion/2015/09/30/whats-like-online-teacher/72713110/