Most teachers are heading into one of the most challenging school years they will ever have to face in their teaching careers. Whether teaching in a virtual classroom or navigating the school year in person, our educators are being forced to adjust to meet the ever-important needs of students, which will be made especially difficult to achieve with distance learning.
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a trusted source for knowledge about high-quality, evidence-based social and emotional learning, suggests personal connection and relationships are especially critical in being a culturally responsive educator and as a gateway to engagement in learning. Educators leading a single class should plan to connect with each student individually during the first few weeks of school and periodically throughout the year, while those with multiple classes should divide and conquer the students with fellow teachers/administrators.
The primary purpose of these conversations is to hear about your student’s experience and perspective so you can understand them as an individual, be responsive to their needs, learning from them for the benefit of the class and school, and build trust.
How to Have these Conversations:
In a virtual or in-person group setting, communicate to students that you’ll be connecting with them individually. Have students sign up for a time for a call or reach out through a school and parent-approved messaging app that allows for easy back and forth exchange.
“I’m working on connecting with everyone in this group to get a better sense of what everyone is feeling and thinking about and how I can best be supportive.”
Show them you care and be as personal as possible.
“I’m glad to have the chance to chat one on one with you.”
“I’m excited to have you in my class/group this year – I can tell you’re going to add a lot to our community.”
Ask a question that invites the student to comfortably share. “How are you?” is great but try to be more specific. And don’t hesitate to probe.
“I know things have been unusual lately; how have you been keeping busy lately?”
“What has been on your mind lately?”
Communicate with student that you value their perspective and feedback and open to making changes.
“What would you like to see happen this school year?”
“What do you think our school/class should be doing differently?”
End on an optimistic, positive note.
“What’s keeping you going/giving you energy/making you happy right now?”
“I’m making a class playlist – what song(s) have you been listening to the most lately? I would love to add them.”
Additional tools and tips to engage students:
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.