“Mr. Smith, I hate school! Every teacher I’ve ever had didn’t care about me… and they never listened…” This was the start of a conversation I had at the beginning of the year with one of my new students. To have a 4th grader who, so early in their educational career, state they hate school is heartbreaking.
We all get students like this each and every year. They come to us with negative views about schools and learning. They’ve had teachers who think that their only job is to come and teach and then let the students go on their way. They’ve entered classrooms where the learning environment felt like a prison instead of a place where they can explore and grow. They’ve been in situations that have made them lose trust in all adults.
This same student that I mentioned above now has a love for learning. He comes to school excited to learn. He’s putting in an effort like never before. He goes home and talks about the exciting things that happened at school with his mother. His grades have improved tremendously. His entire view on education has changed.
As educators, we must all work to change the minds of these students who have given up on education or who have had negative educational experiences. We must take charge of ensuring that our students are entering into classrooms that are engaging, safe, fun, and allows for them to experience learning like never before.
Here are three things you can do to ensure that students leave your classroom at the end of the year with a love for learning and a new mindset about education:
#1 Parental Involvement – I know, I know, I know… this is one of the hardest parts of our job. BUT, we have to do it. We have to do our part… communicate, invite, and celebrate. Even if the parents never look at what is sent home, SEND IT! Even if they never come to a school activity or conference, INVITE THEM! Even if they do something small, CELEBRATE THEM! We have to do our part to GET THEM INVOLVED!
#2 Student Engagement – We hear this all of the time, but are we really doing our part to make sure that EVERY lesson we teach is engaging in a way that our students will retain the information? We have to ensure that we are doing something (even if it is small) in every lesson that makes our students say “WOW!” Play a video, include technology, sing a song, play a game… do something. NO ONE wants to sit there and hear someone talk all day. GET THEM ENGAGED!
#3 Build Relationships – You can know your content like the back of your hand, have the best classroom management in the building, write the most detailed lessons ever, etc. NONE OF THAT MATTERS if you don’t build relationships with those students. You must get to know them, understand them, and allow them to know and understand you. These kids are not going to learn from someone that doesn’t like. There has to be some kind of connection.
We have to start thinking of our students as human beings. As an adult when something is going on, we want to include our friends and family in on that celebration. When we are at a meeting or conference, we want to be “WOWED”, not sitting there bored all day. We want to be able to trust and know our specialist and principals. Why wouldn’t our students want the same things?