Your smile and consistency.
Your pleasantness and good humor. Your kindness, honesty, and simplicity of message.
Day in and day out, they let your students know how much you care.
It’s something they can see and feel as plain as day.
Which in turn builds trust and rapport, drawing them inexorably into your circle of influence.
Despite being indirect, these teacher traits have a powerful affect on students.
In fact, they play an important role in what is the true secret to classroom management success.
But there is something else you can do to show your genuine care and concern for them.
It’s a bit more direct but still nonetheless effective. It’s also simple, as obvious as the nose on your face, and so, so easy to forget.
What is it?
It’s to look individual students in the eye and utter three little words: “How are you?”
Now, it’s important to note that it can’t be an off-handed, throwaway line as you’re walking by. “Hey, howarya?”
It must be earnest.
You have to pause the moment. You have to stop what you’re doing, shove aside whatever else is on your mind, and really look at the student. Be present.
Otherwise, your words will ring hollow. Spoken with sincerity, however, and they can touch their very heart. Because, you see, very few people ever really ask them how they’re doing.
And it means the world to them.
It tells them that you’re interested in them as a person, that they’re not just a test score, a face in the crowd, or another cog in the educational machine.
Not because of what they can do, what they wear, or what they look like, but because they’re here, on this earth, trying to figure it out like the rest of us.
Of course, there are variations of “How are you?” that work as well. “How have you been?” “How is everything?” “How are things going with you?”
Just go with your gut. As long as you really do want to know, you can’t mess it up. As for how students respond, it doesn’t really matter.
Just knowing that you care enough to ask is what’s important.
However, most students will tell you they’re doing fine or okay, which gives you the opening to follow up with “Please let me know if you need anything or I can help you in any way.”
Although they’ll almost never take you up on the offer, they’ll nearly always walk away feeling more settled, content, and appreciative being in your classroom.
On the rare occasion they do want to unburden themselves, be sure to schedule a time that you can really talk, whether at recess or lunch or whenever you have some time.
The strategy—if you can call it that—is especially effective with difficult students or those who you’ve had a harder time building a relationship.
Many of their interactions with teachers have been negative or manipulative. So when you approach them with nothing more than their interest at heart, they’re taken aback in a wonderful way.
Sometimes they don’t quite believe you, which is why it’s a good idea to continue to pose the question every couple of weeks or so.
There is no reason to make a checklist to make sure you get to so many students every week or add yet another to-do to your already full plate.
It’s just a reminder to touch base. To connect with your students as people.
To be the teacher, mentor, angel they can count on.
PS – I’ll be taking next week off to celebrate Christmas, but will be back with a new article on December 30th.
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