Having a personal conversation with a student—especially one who is struggling—can be a great way to build a relationship that will help the student feel better about their prospects in school. But, as we said earlier, even small things can help students feel cared for. For instance, teachers can:
- Welcome individual students when they come to class
- Ask individual students about their interests outside of school
- Incorporate individual students’ interests in class assignments, word problems, projects, etc.
When learning about students’ interests, you may not know the latest music artist, or understand the latest fashion trend—and that’s ok. The goal is not to come across as “cool.” Rather, the goal is to show that you are listening with interest. You are trying to get to know your students over time and understand what matters to them as people. Of course, it takes more time to reach some students than others. Some students have had good experiences with teachers. Others have had negative experiences, or they might have heard negative stories about school from friends, family, or the media. They might think they won’t get a fair shot in school. But teachers who consistently reach out and engage with students and their interests make a difference. These teachers help their students see that, in their class, students are seen for the person they are—not as a test score or a stereotype.
For in-depth practice recommendations, please refer to the toolkit Authentically Connect With Your Students, or check out the next pages in this chapter.