Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Seven #BacktoSchool Strategies for Strengthening Relationships with Students

picA new school year is a great time to remember the importance of building and strengthening relationships with students. I recently had the opportunity to join Paula Denton who is an educator and author of the book, “The First Six Weeks of School” and author and inner city high school teacher Larry Ferlazzo in a conversation with Rae Pica, host of Teacher’s Aid on Bam Radio. We discussed some ways to build relationships with students.
Below are some ideas I shared as well as some I didn’t get to in the interview.

  1. Flickr Passion Album  
    Create a Flickr album featuring school staff members with a little blurb about their talents and passions. Share this with students and their parents at back to school night. Invite them to submit a picture of the student and share something they are passionate about. Great start of school year activity is to share the slide show in class an let students learn a little bit about each other.  Use these pictures on class seating charts, grade books etc. so you can more quickly connect with and remember student faces and names.  

    Details on how to get started:  Make and Publish Books for Free Using A Cell Phone and Flickr  
  2. Reasonable class load   
    It seems that sometimes teachers who teach the cool stuff like library and tech turn into dumping grounds for ALL students. If this happens to you, leave this article somewhere your school leader will find it.   

    Don't give teachers more students than they can reasonably get to know and build relationships.  At Big Picture Learning Schools like the MET, via creative scheduling, teachers, who are called advisors, have no more than 20 students. While your school might not be able to make that work, certainly they can figure ways not to have teachers have more than 60 or so students in a marking period. This may require scheduling that has students pick preferences for the year or one where a teacher has a smaller group of different students each semester.  However they do it, school leaders should not be scheduling 100 or more students with one teacher. When they do it sends a message that the school doesn’t really care about relationships or the content that teacher is teaching.  
  3. Identify your online image   
    Discuss the importance of reputation in general and then have students discuss the image they want to convey online as well. Ask them to use a tool Animoto to make “It’s #SoMe” videos. These videos take a 140-ish character sentence that describes what they want their digital image to be and puts that to pictures and music. It’s a great way for teachers to get to know students and students to get to know each other.    

    Read how to do this here:  It’s #SoMe: Great #BacktoSchool Activity for Digital Citizenship    
  4. Be in their worlds
    Is it any wonder that in some schools there are problems with social media use when there is no adult modeling and sharing best practices?  Innovative educators know that we need to be in student’s worlds online. That means knowing how to connect via social media and via phones.  I interviewed students at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia and they said this: “We are people, not just students. Facebook is a great reminder of that.”    

    There are also tools like that allow you to text students or Google Voice which enables you to gives students (and parents) a number to call, to stay connected, but neither requires you to share a personal number.  
  5. Keep it real and relevant   
    Always honestly explain why students need to know what you are teaching.  Make sure their work has a real audience and real world application. Students don’t want you to teach them what they can look up on Google or YouTube. Respect that and your relationship will be able to grow.
  6. Partner with students for learning  
    Give students a voice in the curriculum and decisions affecting them. Teachers don’t have to know how to use every type of technology or software to empower students to use it. Be expert in pedagogy, but allow students to use the tools and resources they choose to learn best.   

    It was crucial in my job that students were a part of the conversation around the new social media guidelines that affect them. This matters because students want a voice in the fabric of our schools. It is our duty to make sure that happens.
  7. Learning Teams   
    Progressive school models understand that relationships under gird all learning. School models like Big Picture Learning, help students create learning teams that consist of the student, a family member, an advisor, community mentors, and other faculty with whom students build close relationships. This learning team supports students in fulfilling their personal learning plans.  

    Read more about how this works here.
Interested in this topic? Listen to Rae Pica’s interview here

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