In this series of blog posts I will write about the Way I Do things in my own classroom. The topics will cover a broad range of areas such as planning/preparation, marking/feedback, writing notes, questioning, setting homework and managing behaviour.
A while back I started this series of blog posts titled What I do… So far I have written three; one about Questioning, one about Recall and another about Writing Notes. Click here to read them.
In this short post, I will be discussing the way I build relationships with students.
A long time ago, whilst going on a series of joint learning walks with my GTP (Graduate Training programme, old style schools direct) mentor, she told me the once (and forever) eager NQT,
‘Amjad, some teachers just have it. They have got that special thing. I mean, if you could bottle it up and sell it, you would be a very rich man.’
There was me, thinking I hope I have it. I wish I have that special dust/magic she is referring to. 13 years later, having now taught over 2,000 students I have begun to think does that thing, ‘it’, actually even exist?
Well, for me personally, the way I build relationships with my students is really pretty straight forward. I teach them to the very best of my ability, most of the time. (We are all human!) And I try my best to show them that I care. I do not demand respect, I try to earn it but never try to suggest that the students and me are on par with each other, if that makes sense.
I am the authority in the classroom. I dictate the terms, but I do it with a demeanour that doesn’t lower or belittle anybody. I hope.
Thinking further about relationships leads me to think about what I have said many times in talks I have delivered. I always state that for me, education is the best type of ‘therapy’. So, I aim to get my students achieving no matter what their starting points are. This for is paramount in building a healthy relationship. What is also vital is that I am the expert in my classroom. I know my students, I mark their work, communicate with their parents and know their strengths and areas for improvement. This isn’t an overnight process, sometime it takes many weeks, dare I say it many months. By being the expert I ensure I build up trust with my students by having clear routines and by being equitable with and for all my students.
I also speak to my students, occasionally we share information about things we enjoy, I ask them how they are, tell them to be safe over the weekend, enquire about their birthdays and generally, show them I actually know who they are and care about them. I sometimes allow them to go slightly off the topic to find out a little more about me or them. When I take the register, I try my best to learn their names, find out what they mean. I even take it in turns to learn to say hello in their home language.
Something that irks me is when there is a teacher who is particularly strong at behaviour management, (I am often observed for this). States…
Well, I never set detentions, I never need to. Kids, just listen to me.
It is absolutely paramount that the strongest of teachers follow the rules/policies and principles of the school in order to benefit and support their colleagues.
Never confuse being liked with being respected. Never think if you are nicer to students you have a better relationship with them. Students respect a clear idea of what they will get from you. They value firm, but fair. Always.
Ultimately, I build relationships be being me. There is no magic dust about me. I am often asked what my best behaviour management tip is, or how I ensure students complete their work. I find it really hard to give a tip, or an idea, or a suggestion, because I ask, students do it, but only after I have established, modelled and been relentlessly repetitive with my expectations. I make it clear what it should look like, so when a student walks in late, I walk outside with them, knock on the door, show them how to enter, apologise and then sit down quietly. I do not expect my expectations. Not until I expect them to know them!
So, there is no magic dust, but what I do have is an awe and wonder in every student I teach. As the saying goes, diversity is the spice of life, therefore show students the variety of people in this world. Get them ready for their lives outside of school by being you. We are all different, so be you to allow them one day to be them.
If you want to read more about how I get to know my students academically then click here.