Being a teacher is easily one of the most rewarding, yet intimidating jobs in the world – rewarding in that you get to help young students grow and develop in an academic setting, intimidating in that you may not know how to connect with certain students on a meaningful level. After all, no two students are alike, and you never know what you’re going to get when fall term rolls around.
On top of the regular challenges of connecting with students, we’re now living in a peculiar time brought on by the novel coronavirus. Whether you’re a brand new or seasoned teacher, educating and connecting with your students is harder than ever. That’s why we want to go over our favorite tips for new teachers (and veteran teachers!) – some of which you can apply to this unprecedented time, some of which you can use when the world goes back to normal.
5 Tips for New Teachers & Seasoned Teachers Alike
1. Ask How Your Students Are Doing
No person – child or adult – enjoys feeling like another unimportant number on a list. Sure, you might not have every child’s name memorized come the first day of school, but make an effort to learn the names and small facts about each student. Though simple, hearing their name is a signal to students that they’re important to the classroom, which in turn creates a safe space for participation and learning.
Teaching online this year? The same rule applies. Welcome each student by name when they tune into the virtual classroom. Ask how their weekend was. Initiate small talk to ease their minds. Remember, this form of teaching is unusual for them, too!
2. Ask How Your Students Are Doing
We hate to use the word “interview,” but essentially, that’s what we’re hinting at. You are around your students almost as much as their parents/guardians are, so you should be aware of what’s going on in their lives. Rather than heavily focusing on the parent-teacher conferences coming up, focus on your students first. That way, you’ll have substantial talking points for those one-on-ones with the parents.
You can conduct these interviews however you see fit. Make it fun if you can sense discomfort from a student! Whether it’s virtual or in person, simply ask them about themselves:
- What are their hobbies?
- What are they struggling with?
- Do they have friends in the class?
- Is your teaching style meshing with their learning style?
The list goes on. From there, you can take what you’ve learned and carry it into the classroom, making the experience better for both you and each student.
Plus, sometimes it just feels nice to have someone take an interest in you. Once you’ve crossed that threshold with your students, they’ll be more eager to learn from you.
3. Make It Known You’re Available to Talk
It’s great when you initiate conversation/interviews, but what about when your students want to come to you? We recommend holding regular office hours. You can hold them early before school starts or in the late afternoon – either way, be available.
Office hours might be more traditional for higher-level students, so if you’re teaching younger learners, let them know they can always come to you during recess or lunch. You’ll be surprised at how many students take advantage of the “open-door policy.” Whether they want to ask you specific questions about an assignment, want to ask about your interests, or simply need a safe haven for five or ten minutes, be there for your students!
Again, if you’re strictly teaching online, have a virtual sign-up sheet available. It’s even better if you can make it so their names remain anonymous because let’s be honest, no student likes admitting they need to chat with the teacher (which we don’t understand; teachers are the best!).
4. Attend Extracurricular Activities Your Students Are Involved in
One of our favorite tips for new teachers comes outside of regular school hours. Due to the circumstances, this may look different for every school. But if you can, attend activities featuring your students! Again, this will require time outside of your set teaching hours, but it shows your students you care. Think about all the time and effort they’ve poured into these activities; whether it’s a school play, a soccer game, a debate, or an art exhibit, show up and take an interest in their interests.
This will speak volumes to who you are not only as their teacher but as a friend! If you feel uncomfortable attending by yourself, link up with a coworker whose students are involved in the same activity.
5. Wear School Colors & Logos to Show Your School Spirit
Last but not least, show your school spirit! If you really want to connect with your students, show them you’re on the same “team.” You care about this school just as much as they do! Whether you’re repping school colors on game day or just a regular day in the classroom, your students will take notice and find it easier to connect with you.
Show Your School Pride with 1st Place Spiritwear
Want to go above and beyond? Choose 1st Place Spiritwear for your go-to hoodies and t-shirts! By opting for unique alternatives to traditional spirit wear, you can choose from over 200 original designs. This will not only make you a “cool” teacher, but it might even spark up a conversation with your students about your original, high-quality spirit wear!
Whether you adopt one or all of these tips for new teachers, we hope you’re better able to connect with your students. Virtually or in person, it’s 100% possible to build meaningful teacher-student relationships. It just takes a little effort and of course, a little school spirit.