Body Language and Rapport

I think you made many valid points in this post, and I am going to look at observing students. I was teaching in an alternative high school and teaching English. My students, being a bit disaffected regarding going to school, would come in late often, and the classes, small anyway, were quite empty first period. I was being observed, and one of my students came in late. I greeted him and he told me to leave him alone and he was not in the mood (he said this pleasantly and non aggressively). I backed off, respectfully and although I checked his demeanor and body language during the class period, I did not engage him. I knew from past experience he could be explosive, and sadly, before the year was over, he was arrested and never seen again by me. However, the principal dinged me on the evaluation, stating I should have tried to engage him. What do you think I should have done? (and if you give me your opinion, I will tell you how it all ended, as far as the evaluation went… the poor kid, though. He was a troubled young man, but he had a very engaging side to him).
Getting to know my students and taking the time to hear what they had to say about a subject or a personal concern they wanted to talk with me about was the best way to get to know them. If I didn’t have the time at that moment, I would ask them if they would want to stay with me at the beginning of recess to talk, and I never had a student turn me down. They enjoyed the one on one and walked away feeling heard. I found that by doing this, we formed mutual respect and that they were more willing to stop and listen to what I had to say when it came time for lessons. I know there will be several ways to connect with my students and get to know them better. I have already experienced a few that I look forward to trying myself.

Last year I noticed a 4th-grade teacher would take lunch with her students. She would draw a name then that person would bring three friends to lunch with them. I saw the difference in her connections with these kids. She could ask them how something was going, and I could see their eyes light up.
Another great example of getting to know your students was one I got to experience as a parent with my son’s teacher. During the teacher conference, she found out he was playing basketball. She asked if he could send her his schedule because she would love to attend a game. It meant so much to him when she showed up at his game. The bonus was the teacher-parent connection while cheering on the sideline. A relationship entirely outside of the
school environment. My son can be shy in public but not with family and friends. So I know she got to see a side of him she doesn’t see in the classroom.
Rapport is essential because it makes the students feel valued. They think that their teacher has a vested interest in them outside of clocking in to get a paycheck. Research showed that students preferred and responded best to teachers who possessed three sets of skills: (1) establishing caring relationships with students; (2) setting limits and creating a safe environment without being rigid, threatening, or punitive; and (3) making learning fun. “The findings indicated that suburban and rural students have similar opinions, and the three most frequently mentioned teacher characteristics valued by students included a caring attitude, knowledge of the subject and how to teach it, and classroom management skills” (Williams, Sullivan & Kohn, 2012, pp.
104, 105).

The activities that I would implement to get to know my students better would be trying out some of the following:
Morning meetings where they share about what they are doing in their lives.
A” Friday Fun” walks around the playground with the teacher in small groups and individual rotations.
Lunch with students
Attending student extracurricular activities if invited.
Make the time during the day to address academic and personal concerns.
The strategies I would use to develop students understanding of the academic language of the subjects I am teaching would be to make sure that there is a physical connection to help process the reason behind the answer. For example, I would have a visual of the fraction tiles to show kids that when you reduce a fraction, you still have the same part of that whole, just a different fraction of that part. Dunn (1983) stated that approximately 40 percent of students learn more effectively when they can read or see something. Or when I pick books for a read-aloud, I will find culturally diverse books to read throughout the year that includes all of the different cultures in the classroom, giving everyone a chance to see themselves in the stories. It is critical that teachers deliberately model respect for diversity—by expressing admiration for a student’s bilingual ability, by commenting enthusiastically about the number of different languages that are represented in the class, and by including examples and content from a variety of cultures in their teaching (Weinstein, Curran, & Tomlinson-Clarke, 2003, p. 272)

This topic links to the College’s Conceptual Framework through valuing diversity and inclusion. It allowed me to evaluate myself and what I thought teaching would look like. I can see that an important part of my lesson planning will be to not only prepare for the lesson but also consider my students’ learning needs and understanding, as well as their cultural background, to provide engaging lessons.
Williams, P., S. Sullivan, and L. Kohn. 2012. Out of the mouths of babes: What do secondary students believe about outstanding teachers? American Secondary Education 40:104–19.
Dunn, R. 1983. Learning style and its relation to exceptionality at both ends of the spectrum. Exceptional Children 49:496–506.
Weinstein, C., M. Curran, and S. Tomlinson-Clarke. 2003. Culturally responsive classroom management: Awareness into action. Theory Into Practice 42:269–77.

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