Investing in YOUR students
Take time to build relationships! They are worth it!
Students can sense when a teacher sincerely cares, and when they do not.
"In the words of one teacher, 'Constant feedback and communication [with parents] enables my students to feel as if they are part of a strong network that is working feverishly for their benefit'" (Farr, page 69). One of the main things I have learned this semester is that it is okay to establish healthy relationships with students. When I started teaching this past year, I felt I had to be guarded at first in order to make the distinction between my authority and my students. I made myself a little harder to approach, because I felt this was the best way to gain a line of respect. Quickly I found out that not only asking students about their thoughts and opinions, but asking them on a regular basis, keeping in persistent contact with home, and showing I can relax, smile, and enjoy our time together has made this school year all the more meaningful. My students began to feel safe with me as soon as I incorporated this behavior; they realized I wasn't in contact with parents for negative reasons or coming up to them desk because of suspicions. They've enjoyed me, and I too have enjoyed them and getting to know each one of them and their families. I am more understanding and open-minded than I was at the start of the year, due to their confidence in opening up with me and my new-found ability to be approached because of simply allowing establishment of relationships.
Not just investing in students, but also creating INVESTED students
Creating a welcoming environment invites students to be invested in your class.
As I have learned this year to relax with my students, I have learned how important it is to establish a welcoming environment from day one. A negative atmosphere will linger in a negatively created environment, which is ultimately created by the teacher. As Farr's chart says on page 72 in his chapter called Invest Students and Their Families in Teaching as Leadership, creating a welcoming environment creates a sense of community in the classroom. Thus, makes a culture of achievement which makes progress transparent and allows celebration of success, while we teach at the frontier of student ability. Also, we can empower our students with choice and responsibility while establishing the relevance of content. Though it may seem elementary, I firmly believe this picture (which I have on the door to my classroom) resonates with my high schoolers:
Now, isn't this what we all want?
"Leading your students to realize that they can and want to achieve ambitious academic goals is hard work, especially when they come to your classroom doubting that effort correlates with success. We have learned that this hard work yields huge returns for teachers who are fighting for increased opportunities for their students" (Farr, page 72).