This article was written by Maddy Rafter. Maddy has been an educator of ages 6-17 for three years. As a drama instructor as well as a one-on-one educator at a tutoring centre in Vancouver, B.C., she has a unique perspective on teaching and connecting with students.
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With the large class-sizes that characterize the modern public school system, it can feel virtually impossible to give every student the individual attention they need to thrive. We all know that different children learn in different ways, but how can we apply this knowledge in a meaningful way to the classroom? Having the opportunity to tutor students one-on-one has allowed me to fast-track some techniques to reaching student's hearts FAST, so that I can get straight to teaching them in the most effective way that I can. When opportunities for one-on-one attention are slim, there are still ways to make each student feel important, and give them the confidence in their uniqueness that they need to succeed.
Get to know your students as individuals, the best that you can
We don't need to know a student's full background and life-story in order to be able to connect with them on a personal level. What special hobby does each child have? What is their top passion? What are they the experts of? With some creative thinking, we may be able to think of a way to relate the class' subject matter to a field of knowledge that your students already love. If a student is struggling with a particular assignment, you will have some kind of reference point to connect to them with. All the world's knowledge is in one big bowl; with a bit of searching we should all be able to find some kind of connection between the students’ passions, and the subject at hand.
Your class is all one team, in the sport of LEARNING
Set up activities fostering the idea that the class is a team, with many positions. While it might seem counterintuitive, treating your class as one big team can actually help let individual strengths shine. Some students are good leaders, some are good at solving puzzles, some are creative thinkers, some are good organizers, the list goes on. The point is that all students have different strengths and weaknesses, and that is AWESOME... we're all working on ourselves, together as a TEAM. In this environment, each student can bring their own strengths to the table, and really let their individuality sparkle. This is a great way to boost confidence; something we all need in order to be effective learners.
Pay attention to feedback
As educators, we have to be many things. A firm authority figure, an adventure guide, a listening ear, and so much more. It can be difficult to know which version of yourself is the best to present to a classroom full of students who all learn in different ways. Watching for students' positive and negative feedback (especially from the more quiet students who don't voice their qualms so openly) can let us be more effective teachers and make sure we don't run our classrooms like dictatorships. Pay attention to the differing responses you get from your students when assignments are given. These responses could be good indications of which students will likely need an extra boost of help or confidence, allowing you to step in to help before a problem spirals out of control.
Teaching a full class can be a hectic task; paying attention to detail in the right areas is key to managing your time effectively in the task of connecting with students and touching their hearts. While it can be tough, getting to know your students is a rewarding experience that will benefit your teaching, their learning, and everyone's overall enjoyment of the classroom.