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Let’s Make Connections Happen

September 21, 2010

How come a group can be fantastic or awful according to different teachers? How come what seems like an amazing group turns out to be the complete opposite the following year? When I say “amazing” it doesn’t mean a room packed with straight-A students. I mean a group of fantastic kids. Of course there might be “difficult cases” and “shy kids” in the group. Those are the kids that need us most. Those are just desperate kids crying out for help.

I have seen awesome groups full of hardworking and eager to learn children and then after a year, I heard teachers referring to that same group as a difficult one; full of struggling students that were  unwilling to work and take part in class activities. Kids can’t change that much in one year. And I wonder whether there ever was a strong connection between teachers and students in those situations since I feel that the connection with students will definitely seal the fate of a group. We, as teachers, have a choice on whether to try to connect with our students or not. That choice will definitely affect our class learning environment.

A teacher’s attitude towards students is powerfully important. If we believe in our students, if we work hard to connect, we’ll get the best from them. I feel that my duty is to bring out the best in every kid. I don’t think the best in every kid means outstanding marks on their tests. When I say “bring out the best in every kid,” I mean that we should encourage their love for learning and their willingness to be better.

When a teacher doesn’t connect with students, it’s almost impossible to create a positive learning environment. What is more, a negative learning environment just leads to unmotivated and scared students. How can you encourage the love for learning this way?

If we want to build a better future for our students, we need to motivate them and make them feel safe. It’s our responsibility to see the beauty in every kid and help them flourish. We can’t just give up. Of course the journey can be difficult at times. It’s even possible that we don’t get to see the results right away. We must never forget that growing up is a process. Adults aren’t always able to make changes right away, why should we expect that from our students?

We might have shy students, but we are the lucky ones that get the chance to help them gain confidence. We might have “difficult cases’ but we have the privilege of helping them believe in themselves. We are the ones that can encourage them to try hard. Teachers build up their groups; teachers encourage the love for learning. It doesn’t come with every kid; we ought to foster that.

Let’s reach out for our students.  Let’s help them realize they are not shy or difficult or struggling kids. We need to make them aware that they are exceptional kids who are simply growing up. Let’s help them believe in themselves by showing them that if they try hard they’ll be able to meet their goals. Let’s be there alongside cheering on every step they make no matter how long it takes.

39 Comments leave one →
  1. marisapavan permalink
    September 21, 2010 10:45 pm

    What an insightful post, Greta! I totally agree with you. I believe a good connection between teachers and students is essential to foster the appropriate learning environment. That connection should be based mainly on respect and mutual trust.

    I’ve always felt respected by my students but not solemnly respected, respected in a way that my students feel free to speak their minds and they know they’ll be understood. My students from my group classes are teenagers and I always enourage them to improve themselves. As to this, I’ve got a funny anecdote to tell. A student of mine who was finishing her First certificate level course wanted to take a picture of me making a signal with a finger (typical of me) and saying “you can, come on, you can do it.” This girl was about to start university in a nearby city and wanted to keep my picture so as to feel encouraged. I felt flattered because I realised how effective my encouragement was.

    • September 22, 2010 9:33 am

      Thanks so much for your comment Marisa! I’ve been reflecting on this for quite a while. I decided to write about it, because it really hurts me when this kind of thing happens. I agree with you! Respect is so important! We can’t have a good relationship with anyone if there’s no respect.
      What a sweet story! Your student must have really felt you believed in her. I can tell you are an amazing educator who really cares about her students. Thanks for sharing your story with me!

  2. September 21, 2010 10:50 pm

    Hi Greta,

    I often ponder the same question about how one person can view a group of students, or even an individual one, a certain way and another teacher can describe that very group or student in a completely different way. I think that you have found the golden key: relationship.

    As I work diligently to develop a relationship with students in my new class this year, I will have earn their trust. As they get to know me and trust me, and vice versa, I will be able to give more meaningful feedback, even more critical feedback ( which I mean in a constructive way) and they will not tune me out or feel put down.
    We all need to go into the classroom believing that our students can and will meet and often exceed our expectations. If they cannot or will not, we must not let ourselves off the hook but continue to seek ways to reach them.
    Thanks for sharing; it was a timely post for me to read!

    • September 22, 2010 9:39 am

      Thanks for your comment Joan! I work really hard on developing a trusting relationship with my students. It really breaks my heart when something like this happens. I just thought I had to write about it and share my thought. If I can help and inspire one teacher, it will definitely make my day.
      “We all need to go into the classroom believing our students can and will meet and often exceed our expectations” So true! Let’s never forget this and always step into our classrooms knowing our students will succeed. Thanks again!

  3. September 21, 2010 11:06 pm

    Gret – what a beautiful message. The teacher/student relationship is key! When something breaks down in that relationship, it is our job to continually strive to determine how to reach a class or individual student. Just as each student has their own individual needs, each class joins together with a set of needs. These are going to be different from year to year. We have to find what works for each situation. We may need to change techniques and practices to reach students. Twitter and blogging help us all connect and brainstorm situations in order to empower the teacher/student relationship.

    Your post is a great reminder to make sure we are reaching each and every student. Thank you for your insight!

    • September 22, 2010 10:02 am

      Thanks so much Kathy! I really appreciate your support.
      I agree with you! “When something breaks down in that relationship, it is our job to continually strive to determine how to reach a class or individual student” I know it can be hard, but giving up should never be an option!
      Having a PLN really helps! We can get support, advice, different perspectives!
      Thanks again!

  4. September 22, 2010 12:23 am

    Great post, Gret! I think the key lies in how the teacher sees herself. The teacher needs to be a part of the learning community and your students need to feel that you respect them, rather than just demanding they do their work and respect you. If this is the case, and if you make sure you know every student’s ‘story’ and treat each one as an individual, you will have a connection. And I agree with you… that connection (or lack of) is what seals the fate of the group!

    • September 22, 2010 10:16 am

      Hi Edna! I also think how the teacher sees herself is essential. If you don’t believe in yourself it’s very difficult to teach others to believe in themselves…
      I liked what you said: “If you make sure you know every students’ story and treat each one as an individual, you will have a connection” Kids need to feel they are important to us. Getting to know our students is important if we want to make a connection.
      Thanks for your feedback Edna! Love learning with/from you!

  5. September 22, 2010 12:45 am

    Inspiring post, Gret. Supporting teachers to get past negative preconceived notions was a constant battle of mine in some of the school sites where I was principal. It was exhausting and energy draining! As you said: “When a teacher doesn’t connect with students, it’s almost impossible to create a positive learning environment. What is more, a negative learning environment just leads to unmotivated and scared students. How can you encourage the love for learning this way?” The message you share here is heartfelt and powerful…may it spread like wildfire!

    • September 22, 2010 10:46 am

      Hi Lisa! Thanks so much for your kind words about my post! I get really upset when this kind of thing happens. agree with you it’s a constant battle, that is why I decided to share this message, I DO hope it spreads like wildfire! Not every teacher is aware of how connecting or not connecting with students can make a difference.
      Thanks again Lisa!

  6. September 22, 2010 1:52 am

    Wonderful post, Gret, and so close to my heart AGAIN! My new class is very different from my old one. Different school, different kids, different year. When you had the same class for two years, it is harder to let go and embrace new adventures.

    A new age group on top of this, and I see the need to make connections happen very clearly. What can we do? Do we allow enough time for this? I hope so. I take a serious interest in the eleven 6,7 and 8 year-old kids in my class. Sometimes it takes a while though for them to trust you. You need to earn that trust. So give it time, do not rush and remember to love them… (I would like to point out at this stage that this is also our job!).
    🙂 Gret, you’re amazing! Thanks again for posting this!

    • September 22, 2010 11:24 pm

      Hi Jessica! Thanks for your feedback and sharing your story with me. Changes are difficult, we need to adapt and so do our students too. I bet it’s even harder for you at a different school. You’re an awesome educator and care about your students. You’ll do great!
      I agree with you it takes a while to develop a trusting relationship. I think that is the most important thing, so if I need more time for that, I just go ahead and do it.
      I loved what you said: “this is also our job” So true! We must never forget that…
      Thanks again!

  7. Gail (@used2bprincipal) permalink
    September 22, 2010 10:58 am

    Gret,

    Again, thanks for sharing your wonderful insights. When you don’t listen to the naysayers and take the time to get to know the children, “walk in their shoes,” be welcoming and non-judgemental ,
    you are setting them up for success and yourself as well. Establishing a relationship with your students and letting them understand that with you, they are in a safe, nurturing environment is so important.

    Unfortunately not every teacher is open minded and caring and just because a person wants to be a teacher doesn’t mean he/she should be a teacher.

    You are a reflective practitioner, always looking for ways to improve yourself and ,in turn, better what you can offer to your students. I’m glad that you are a teacher. Your students are so lucky to have you.

    • September 23, 2010 2:15 pm

      Thanks so much Gail! You’re such an awesome educator! You are so supportive! I really appreciate all the advice you give me. I’ve learned so much from you! I love having you in my PLN.
      I liked what you said: “walk in their shoes” So true! That’s so important if we want to make a connection! Thanks again Gail!

  8. September 22, 2010 3:31 pm

    You have hit on something really important here Gret, the key to a great classroom environment and a successful school year for all is a teacher who thinks more about the students needs than their own. They see beyond difficult behavior or struggling academically and see the beauty that rests in every child. They take the time to really know their students and work to do what is best for them all the time. Attitude is everything. We have to remember that every single student that walks through our door is incredibly important to someone, someone who has entrusted us to do our best for them. That is a big responsibility.

    • September 23, 2010 3:15 pm

      Thanks so much Kelly!
      I loved this: “We have to remember that every single student that walks through our door is incredibly important to someone, someone who has trusted us to do our best for them” I totally agree! It sure is a big responsibility. We must give our best for those kids. I don’t think that giving my best is just teaching curriculum. I believe being a teacher is way more than that! Thanks again for sharing your opinion!

  9. m_yam permalink
    September 22, 2010 4:43 pm

    Hi Greta,

    Thanks for your inspiring post! I totally agree with you that the teacher/student relationships is the key to a positive learning environment. I teach at a university so my students are adults in a way, but I believe it’s equally important for them to feel safe to be there and communicate with the teacher and each other. I feel many Japanese students have “learned” to keep silent and not express their feelings, questions or opinions in the classroom, or to the teacher. Sad. So I always, especially in the beginning of a term, try hard to change this “no-reaction-is safer” attitude, by showing I am always listening to each of them, ready to respond to what they want to say and to think with them, and willing to learn from them. As this is gradually working out and they’re getting to express themselves more, I understand them better, and we communicate with each other better.

    I really love it when you say “we are the lucky ones that get the chance” to help them grow/change. Thanks again!

    • September 23, 2010 4:45 pm

      Hi Mari! Thanks so much for your comment and sharing your story with me! I
      I agree with you! Adults or young adults also need to feel safe and that we care about them.
      I’m sure your students really appreciate all you do and it doesn’t take them long to feel comfortable in your classes. It must be challenging but so rewarding at the same time! Even though, they are adults you’re making a difference for them!
      Thanks again Mari! I really appreciate your support!

  10. September 22, 2010 6:32 pm

    Greta, what a beautiful post! You make a really valid point here. What I love about you is how much you do connect with the students and ensure that their learning experience is a positive one. This is so important! These students are lucky to have you as their teacher, and I feel lucky to learn from you both on your blog and through your Twitter account.

    Aviva

    • September 23, 2010 4:48 pm

      Thanks Aviva! I really appreciate your kind words. It means a lot coming from a wonderful educator like you! I’m really lucky to have you in my PLN too. I love learning with/from you! Thanks for your support!

  11. Shelly Sanchez Terrell permalink
    September 22, 2010 7:59 pm

    Greta,

    I agree that there has to be a connection. When educators don’t have one and blame the student for the lack of a connection this frustrates me. After all we are the educated adults who are in charge of educating the future leaders and decision-makers. I even want to tell some educators who I have seen act very callously towards students to find a new profession because I don’t feel safe with them impacting our future decision-makers. I know these are strong feelings but I take this profession very seriously and have been very sad to see some in our profession tell students they won’t amount to anything or that they are stupid or some other cruel statement. I wish all in our profession had a heart like yours. We don’t necessarily have the highest paying job and educators do have a degree so I’m not sure why those who don’t feel the calling don’t simply find another profession where being negative towards others is welcomed.

    • September 23, 2010 7:21 pm

      Hi Shelly,
      Thanks for your kind words. I wish there were more teachers like you!
      I totally agree! I get really upset when students are blamed for the lack of connection or any other unfair thing. It’s so sad when things like this happen.
      I can’t understand why people who don’t feel the calling are teachers either. They are not happy and they aren’t helping their students either… Thanks again Shelly!

  12. September 23, 2010 2:24 pm

    Kids respond when they know people care about them and can be trusted. You are so “right on” with this post!

    My first year of teaching was in a 7-12 grade school. Before school started, the grade 6 teachers came to our building. I was told that they would help us talk about the academic needs of kids who were coming to us. Instead, it was a kid bashing/praising exercise. “Oh, you’ll love “Dylan! He’s just the brightest and most pleasant child!” “Now you need to watch for Katie. She’s sneaky, and I just did not like this child!”

    I WAS APPALLED! The kids who were bashed by those teachers never had a chance to start with a clean state. Their reputations followed them to the next level. Some of the secondary teachers I worked with made a pact that we would target those “troublemakers” and cultivate relationships with them so that they could have that fresh start. Enough of us complained to administration that these ‘academic needs’ sessions were bad for kids, and the process stopped after my 2nd year there.

    Kids who trust the adults in their lives are more motivated. Thanks for the reminder!🙂

    • September 24, 2010 10:26 pm

      Thanks Michelle for your comment!
      Unfortunately, that still happens in many schools in Argentina. It’s so sad. I wish those “meetings” were just to talk about academic needs. It get really upset when kids are bashed. It really breaks my heart.
      We have the opportunity to make a difference for those kids. I’m so glad there are lots of inspiring educators like you willing to touch their students hearts!

  13. September 23, 2010 2:33 pm

    Great post, Greta.

    You have got to the central heart of the matter of what our job entail as teachers. Namely, to see the good in each of our students and to give each and every one of them as much encouragement as possible, right from the very beginning.

    Connection, motivation, responsibility are some vital key words we should definitely all bear in mind.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • September 24, 2010 10:34 pm

      Thanks so much Janet!
      I agree with you! “Connection, motivation, responsibility are some vital key words we should definitely all bear in mind” Let’s never forget this!
      Thanks again!

  14. September 23, 2010 8:49 pm

    Hi Greta,

    How a wonderful post to make us think about it. I think the teacher has two options when s/he starts with a new group: first one, positive attitude towards his/her students. Needless to say that the second is negative. Unfortunately some teachers they take that specific group for granted and have a negative attitude towards the students, just because heard that “group” is difficult.

    As teachers and educators we can only have one option, positive attitude. The connection with students is the most valuable thing that the teacher can establish in his/her group. Children, they will give back what they get from.

    I completely agree with you Greta, You post is a fantastic reminder that we can always make better every day for our students.
    Luciana Podschun
    @inglesinteract

    • September 25, 2010 9:47 am

      Thank you for your comment Luciana! I agree with you! We have the amazing opportunity to connect students and make a difference for them. Let’s never forget this. Thanks again!

  15. September 24, 2010 10:55 pm

    I LOVE how you turn what many see as problems as opportunities and gifts to us as educators. You are right that OUR attitude towards students will decide if they are a “good” or “bad” class in our eyes. Your positive approach will not only influence your staff, but those around you. You are doing wonderful things!

    • September 25, 2010 9:54 am

      Wow George! Thanks! Your words mean a lot to me.
      Our job is a blessing. The opportunity to touch our students’ hearts and make a difference for them is the most rewarding gift we can get.
      I love having you in my PLN, thanks for inspiring me every day! Thanks again!

  16. September 24, 2010 10:59 pm

    You’ve captured perfectly my same sentiments on this matter. What a difference a positive-minded, accepting, caring teacher can make in the lives of their students. It makes me wonder how one year a student can be labeled “trouble” or a “headache” by one teacher and the next year, no issues whatsoever. Well- it doesn’t make me wonder, I know exactly why that it is.🙂 Great messages in your post!

    • September 25, 2010 10:03 am

      Thanks so much Lyn! I agree with you teachers can make wonders in the lives of their students. It’s a question of attitude, love and respect. Thanks again for your comment. It’s greatly appreciated!

  17. koolkat222 permalink
    September 25, 2010 12:14 am

    Gret,

    What you say is is so true. You are an amazing writer; all of your blogs are so heartfelt. Your students are very lucky to have you!

    Kathryn

    • September 25, 2010 10:10 am

      Wow Kathryn! Thanks so much! Your words mean a lot coming from an amazing educator like you. Love having you in my PLN!

  18. September 25, 2010 5:46 pm

    I feel like the negative teachers who like to badmouth kids who have untold and unseen issues are doing everyone in the school a disservice. Those people need to reexamine their commitment to their profession. Are we there to continue to drag kids down with crappy attitudes or raise kids up to potential they didn’t know existed? Having an open mind and being able to form your own opinions of people are prerequisites to teaching. Once you lose them, you’ve become damaging to your students.

    I just love when a kid comes to me with a poor reputation. The child and I both get to prove everyone wrong.

  19. September 25, 2010 7:03 pm

    Thanks for your comment Matt! You’re such a passionate teacher! I like what you said: “I just love when a kid comes to me with a poor reputation. The child and I both get to prove everyone wrong.” I love kids with poor reputation too. Touching their hearts is one of the most rewarding things that can happen to a teacher.
    Thanks again Matt!

  20. September 7, 2011 6:37 pm

    As a teacher who spent a long time with happy students. I’ve been very close to young children and they made my work so easy and heartful.

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