Think back to your own schooling and the teachers that made the biggest impression. What was it about them that you remember all these years on? How can you be that teacher for your students?
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- Respect their pronouns and learn their name – find out if they have a preferred nickname, master difficult pronunciation.
- Set standards and be consistent – nothing confuses and angers kids more than an adult that changes the rules for different people. Show you respect them by treating everyone the same. Ask the class to help write the class rules, show you care by asking their opinions.
- Be mindful of family difference – when talking about challenging subjects like divorce and death, especially around Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day.
- Greet kids – in the school grounds, in the classroom, when you see them out – even a head nod from across the shop. Kids like to be seen.
- Find one thing in common with each student that you can relate to – have an ongoing conversation that’s just for them. Make a connection that’s not schoolwork related.
- Acknowledge the strengths of each child. Depending on the kid and their age you might do this privately or publicly, you might send a note or email home, even a post-it attached to a particularly great piece of work. Share these wins in the staffroom too – enthusiasm about your students can be contagious, and if another teacher greats your student with congratulations about winning a local writing competition or saying happy birthday, they will know you are proud of them.
- Set up a class playlist for times when music is appropriate, have little dance offs when everyone is looking tired or bored. Let students suggest or vote for songs.
- Encourage celebrating birthdays, milestones and wins as well as out-of-school interests – an attempt at running the city to surf or making it into a junior football squad is just as special as winning a national Maths Competition or someone’s cat having kittens.
- Notice what’s happening – you’re there to teach but you can’t help but observe who’s estranged from their friend group, who’s disengaged. Talk to them – while everything else might be falling apart, at least one person has noticed them (see rule 5).
10. Show up to school events, fundraisers and PTO activities – for kids, school is about much more than academics. You can show you care by being present outside of the classroom, cheering them on, letting them see you as a person as well as a teacher, just like they are kids as well as students.