“Effective teaching is all about teacher-student relationships” (Wong, 2009, p.68)
Cultivating positive relationships and high expectations is an essential key to the success of students. A teacher has the power to start these relationships off on a positive note. From the first eye contact, smile, and friendly words, the teacher can create a comfortable and positive relationship with the student and parent. There can be positive relationships among teachers and students in addition to those between students themselves. Additionally, and equally as crucial are the relationships built between the teacher and the students’ families as well.
Strategies for Building Positive Relationships
Teacher to Student
First, the teacher needs to show that they care for the students. Having the classroom set up, and fulfilling the first day organizational check list are two ways to show care for the students. When meeting the students for the first time, smiling, pronouncing their name correctly, and making eye contact set a good foundation for showing care. Awareness of body language is important for ensuring communication of a positive vibe since being unaware of body language may convey a negative message. For example, a teacher may be in the habit of folding their arms when listening to others speak. Whether the teacher realizes or not, she is communicating a closed message. In The First Days of School (Wong, 2009), Wong recommends rehearsing various statements in the mirror. This helps increase awareness of what the teacher looks like. And of course, good manners are a must. Those simple statements like “please” and “thank you” show thoughtfulness and sincerity.
Student to Student
Clearly stated classroom guidelines that are rehearsed, followed and taught by example from the teacher can guide students to treat each other with dignity and respect. More practice will be needed however, and simple role playing games can be useful for practicing this skill. Group projects (any size, from pairs to half of the class) and class projects can increase comfort levels among students. Ultimately, the teacher needs to be the continuous example of modeling dignity and respect.
Teacher to Family
Genuine care will show in the teacher’s smile as he or she listens and makes eye contact with the families. Communication should be as clear as possible. Making sure the family knows the expectations will help them support their child in class. A timeline for regular communication scheduled with students’ families will keep the doors of communication open. Depending on the subject area, the teacher may meet only some of the families, which is an important reason for specialists to communicate with the families on a regular basis. If there happens to be any negative things to report, it’s helpful to present the information as positively as possible.
“You can accomplish anything with students if you set high expectations for behavior and performance by which you yourself abide.” (Wong, 2009, p.37)
Positive expectations is expecting all students to be able to learn. This is not to be confused with standards which are levels of achievement. According to Wong (2009), teachers with high expectations of their students will help students achieve high standards. The teacher needs to start with themselves, the teacher, and his or her personal optimism. If the teacher believes he or she will be successful in her profession, they will. In other words, expecting success keeps one in tune and aware of opportunities to help achieve success. The practice of optimism and positive expectations on a personal level shows students the example of what having positive expectations looks like on a daily basis. In addition to the teacher’s personal attitude of high expectations, the effective teacher makes these positive expectations clear on the first day of school, establishes a climate of positive expectations, and holds all students to those high expectations.
Attentiveness to consistent expectations is important in order to avoid damaging students based on making unfair inferences about students and their abilities. Expectation research done in the 1960s by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson, (Wong, 2009, p.40) showed that when teachers were told some of their students were “special”, they expected more from those students and therefore saw a significant gain in intellectual growth in those students. There was not a significant amount of growth among the students not in the “special” group. These results suggest that a teacher will get what they expect from a student.
Obtaining a maximal focus from students must be initiated from the beginning of class. Wong states, “Your very first priority when the class starts is to get the students to work” (Wong, 2012). This can be accomplished by, clearly communicating and modeling expectations at the start of class. Some teachers might utilize exit tickets as one way of assessing a student’s work in an efficient way and cultivating thought for the upcoming class (What will you do at the beginning of the next class?). Establishing clear, concrete and accessible expectations is essential.
Teachers must treat the end of class equally to the beginning and end. Often time’s teachers will dismiss class without a conclusion, a reflection or lead into the next lesson. Checking for comprehension can range from “think pair shares” to “standardized tests.” A quick journal entree, an exit ticket, thumbs-up/thumbs-down; checking for understanding after a question, are all examples of quick meaningful approaches to conclude a lesson.
Turning in Work
Students are anxious to submit and then receive feedback from the teacher. Teachers must provide clarity on the expectations of submission. Where, when, why and how would be a good place to start when describing the submission of assignments to students. A clear understanding of where a student should submit the assignment, specific deadlines, how to turn in an assignment fully completed is also an important factor. These methods will help reduce miscommunication and anxiety for students.
Using the Restroom
Students will definitely need to use the restroom at some point during the day. The rules/expectations for using the restroom should vary from grade to grade and the personal expectations of the teacher.
Asking for help During Work Time
Students should be comfortable to ask for help or clarification during the day. The methods in which students can ask for help should vary per grade level. Teachers should have age appropriate expectations that are accessible. Methods can range from post-it-notes, a color/sign, or a “question box.”
Absences and Make Up Work
Upon an unplanned excused absence students are allowed to make up work within a predetermined amount of time set by the teacher. The teacher using fair judgment should determine the amount of time provided for submission of the late work.
-If the student has an unplanned unexcused absence they must meet with the teacher to evaluate the expectations of the make up policy. The student should make up the assignment.
-For a planned excused/unexcused absence the students must collect assignments from the teacher prior to the absence and submit the assignments accordingly.
-Expectations regarding make-up work should be clearly posted and available for students to understand. Within my PE class I utilize the Google drive containing multiple options for make up assignments. Students know where to find a make up assignment and can even accomplish the make up work before missing a planned absence.
Transitioning between activates or class can create a void in teaching or learning time. If the students are prompted before class with an agenda for the day and transition directions they will reduce the amount of time a teacher spends directing the transition. Teachers should have an agenda clearly posted for the students to understand when start and finish times are.
Students are often distracted within personal conversations, group work, or personal thought. Teachers might utilize methods such as non-verbal noise (clap, whistle, chime, bell), simply raising a hand, one-clap/two clap “if you can here me clap once, if you can hear me clap twice,” or raising their voice to acquire their attention. In PE the most common method is to use the whistle. However, students should be able to be aware of their environment without a teacher having to use the whistle. Sometimes the silent raising of a hand is an equally effective method.
Spending time picking up and placing equipment on the floor can be inefficient for a teacher. Within PE we may use students to help organize equipment. Throughout the school year different students can be equipment managers for the week. They must work with the teacher before and after class to be responsible for the equipment that is needed during a particular lesson.
Showering After Exercise
Showering after exercise is important for maintaining hygiene. Students are often uncomfortable with showering and teachers also might be uncomfortable with checking on students if they shower. To help accommodate comfort for students and teachers is to have proper facilities to ensure privacy (doors on showers). Teachers can also send different groups and different times to reduce the number of students in the locker room at one time.
Wong, Harry K.; Wong, Rosemary T. (2012-05-11). The First Days of School (Kindle Location 16). Harry K Wong. Kindle Edition.