Thursday, July 29, 2010

Top 10 Ways for Students to Connect to Teachers

I saw a guest post on a blog about how new teachers can connect to their students. It had some great advice on it—things like "praise in public but reprimand in private," and "admit when you're wrong." Absolutely, and as a teacher I can testify that those ideas are very effective.

But a student-teacher relationship is a two way street. Teachers can do a lot to set the tone in the classroom, but students have to do their fair share, as well. If you're a student, here are a few things you should know about how to build a good student-teacher relationship.
  1. Don't mistake the relationship for something else. There can be a great deal of affection and admiration in the student-teacher relationship, and it can go both ways. As a student, you have to remember that the teacher can be a mentor, and maybe someday a friend, but is not your mom or dad, your potential girlfriend or boyfriend, or your big brother or sister, or that bully that beat you up in the 4th grade. You don't need the teacher's approval of your personal life, and your teacher isn't responsible for the bad things that happen to you.
  2. The teacher can see you. I say this because students seem to think that the teacher is on television up there in the front of the classroom. Do you really think I can't see you passing notes, whispering, texting, or sleeping? And do you think I won't remember how much attention you didn't pay when you come asking for an extension on an assignment?
  3. Put your cell phone away. Do not text during class. It's extremely rude, and teachers tend to take it personally.
  4. Ditto laptops. If you're actually taking notes on your laptop, fine, but I'll notice if you stare at your screen and don't look up for 20 minutes. Technology is our friend, but our friend might have to sit on my desk until the end of class.
  5. Never ask, "Are we doing anything important today?" To the teacher, it's all important. We've already trimmed back our subjects to the bare minimum of content, so every lesson matters.
  6. Don't skip class. Real life happens, we know that. You get sick, your car breaks down, your ride bails...this is what excused absences are for. Teachers love being able to say, "She's usually here, so I'm sure she has a good reason for being gone." We don't like it when the hard-nosed cynic within us notices, "Oh, look, Jojo isn't here. What a surprise."
  7. Talk in class. Questions or comments in a class discussion, or even in the middle of a lecture, are like chocolate to teachers. Because to tell you the truth, sometimes we feel like we're on TV up there, talking out into space and making no connections. And it's really frustrating when the whole class misses the same question on the test because I didn't explain the idea clearly. Teachers always think, "Why didn't anyone ask about this?" But if all we get is the blank stare, we have no way of knowing if you've understood the material or not.
  8. Don't give us too many details. Do not hand in a paper or assignment and say, "Yeah, I just threw this together about an hour ago." If you hadn't said that, you might have gotten away with it. But now that you have said it, we know you didn't take the assignment seriously and you don't respect the work we do for you day in and day out—and that's the mindset we grade your paper with.
  9. Share with us some of your connections or ideas. Teachers' brains are not self-contained universes, and we are often open to ideas from students. If you saw a TV show that reminded you of last week's lecture, tell us! Maybe we can get it for class and benefit everyone. If there's a song that seems to echo a poem we've studied, bring in the CD or mp3 file, and we'll listen to it and discuss it. If you overheard a conversation about our history or science topic, and you knew why the speakers were wrong, let your teachers know! It's just really nice to know that some of our work is carried out of the classroom inside your brain.
  10. Keep the lines of communication open. Teachers are on your side. They want you to succeed, and they'll go to great lengths to help you. If you know you're going to miss class, tell your teacher so he can help you avoid falling behind. If you have to leave in the middle of class to take some medication, just let the teacher know. You can even trust the teacher with some information that might seem embarrassing, like not being able to afford supplies for a class project. Your teacher won't blab it, and he'll see that you get what you need. But you have to go to the teacher—the teacher can't go to every student and ask if they can afford their supplies. Just let your teachers know what's going on with you, and they'll work with you.
And one more...say thanks every now and then. We don't need it...teachers would do what we do out of love and commitment even if we never got thanked. But it's sure nice to hear every once in a while.

Kathy Teel is a content writer for Online Schools and Online MBA who gives advice on the pursuit of education and living a healthy life. She also is a contributing writer for a site that helps students determine the best online nursing programs for them. In her free time, she enjoys thinking about what she'd do if she actually had any free time.