Should I be teaching elementary school? You’ve seen those videos where teachers greet their students with those fancy handshakes and little dances. They look so much fun. Classroom greetings establish strong connections and relationships as well as set the tone for the teacher, students, and classroom. To be honest, I yearn for those types of connections and relationships. And to paraphrase the late Rita Pierson, kids learn from people who they like.
Earlier this week I attended the Technology Enables Seminar + Showcase (#TESS18) where Robin DeRosa spoke about the humanity of learning. Robin suggested “how beautiful [it would] be if our humanity wasn’t an impediment to learning, but its heartbeat?”. I agree, let’s not let the human experience get in the way of learning but be its foundation. But how do you create meaningful relationships with students that celebrate and leverage their humanity when you might only see them once a week?
A BALANCING ACT:
Guided by UDL, I try to not let life get in the way of learning by offering choice, by asking students what they need or want, by offering flexible due dates, by having in-class conversations, but I still feel like something is missing. Relationships take time. And sometimes, I feel constrained. Perhaps I’m experiencing a little analysis paralysis trying to figure out what is the best way forward, for example:
- Could I shake hands with my students as they come into my marketing class?
- Business etiquette dictates handshakes but I don’t want to pressure a student into shaking my hand if they don’t feel comfortable. Nor would I want to create any anxiety about it.
- Could I shut my classroom door at the start of class?
- I’d like to shut my classroom door at the start of class so that I can get into the zone without any interruptions. Plus, I think a hard start teaches students to arrive on time and to manage their schedules. On the other hand, life gets in the way sometimes and we’re late. So what can you do? Despite the distraction to the learning environment, my door is open and students can come in whenever, even the last 10 minutes. (An exception to the rule occurred last week. My class was motoring along with group work. Everyone had roles and responsibilities. The groups were balanced perfectly. I shut my door. A few students came late about 10 minutes apart, greeted by a closed door. My heart was torn. Do I break up a cohesive and engaging exercise for the latecomers? I didn’t and I didn’t like how it felt. On the other hand the students in the class flourished that day.)
SET THE TEMPERATURE or TAKE THE TEMPERATURE?
I trust that I’m building relationships in other ways, e.g., handing out name tags and chatting with students at the beginning of class. I just wish the action would be more high energy like me. But perhaps that’s also part of the issue. I’m trying to bring them to meet me where I’m at rather than me meeting them where they are at, at that moment. Just the same, isn’t a little disequilibrium a good thing?
(My head hurts)