Walking into a new class is just like walking down the aisle on Married at First Sight! You need to make a good first impression! Look good, smell good and feel good. That’s your classroom that I’m talking about. When your students first walk into your classroom, you want them to immediately feel comfortable.
Love at first sight
There’s nothing worse than having your students excited to learn after the holidays and ready for a fresh start. Then, they walk into this room that smells like your grandmother’s wardrobe and looks just as boring! Now, I know there some next level instagrammable classrooms out there and we don’t need to go that far. However, as teachers, we need to look at ourselves as salespeople and our job is to sell the importance of education!
We are up against ipads, smartphones, Netflix and kids that can’t concentrate because of these things and time-poor parents. Why would a kid want to sit down and listen to you dribble on all-day when they could flick through their TikTok account watching people do weird dances (apparently it’s funny)? Apps use algorithms and game-theory to suck us into wanting more. Technology is made to be addictive!
Connect or crash
This is why you need to connect with them. Build the relationships and put the effort in. You can’t be like Tash and want to dash one day after asking for a pash!
Sometimes you can be “matched” with the most challenging students who you feel you just don’t have a “spark” with, but they’re the ones that need you the most. Everyone has a story. They might be the undiagnosed child or the one that was never taught to read properly or experienced trauma-related issues. Teachers can be the ones that change their lives.
When you say your “vowels” to each other and you agree to be the best teacher you can be and they agree to be safe, respectful learners – you need to be explicit with your expectations. Assume that your students know nothing. Be explicit and direct with every s-i-n-g-l-e aspect of your classroom. From how they enter to how they sit down, where they sit, when they can put their hand up, how loud they can speak. This doesn’t mean that you have to create all of these procedures, but you do need to have them.
I have always been a huge advocate for the importance of Project-Based Learning and building the 4 C’s of 21st Century Learning: Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, and Communication. However, I have always found that teacher-led instruction is important at the start of the year so that you can explicitly coach your students as to what your expectations are.
Over the years, Explicit Direct Instruction or Direct Instruction has received mixed feedback. Dataworks have put together a set of steps to follow for it called TAPPLE. Teach first, Ask questions, Pause, Pair-Share, Point, Pick a non-volunteer, Listen to the response, Effective Feedback.
It is a process that allows the teacher to assess the students, while still teaching. Lorraine Hammond has also completed a study on its effectiveness. Whatever process you follow, teaching a new skill requires us to teach them, model it, have them practice it, show them the right and wrong way, role play. Then, when you think they’ve got it, do it again!
We all have different expectations for what is acceptable. This is based on our cultural backgrounds, past experiences, and goals for the future. Just like being in a relationship for the first time, we need to build trust. Our students may also have “baggage” like Poppy and struggle to trust that someone may actually care for them and be there to support them.
Set them up for success
Give your students an opportunity to succeed, in “Embedding Formative Assessment,” Dylan William and Siobhan Leahy speak about the importance of setting Learning Intentions and differentiating Success Criteria. Again, so that our students understand what they are trying to achieve, what it looks like when they get there and that there can be different ways of getting there.
Unlike in Married at First Sight, we don’t have to rush building relationships with our students. Give it time to develop organically. Paul Dix in “When the adults change everything changes” speaks about the importance of showing up for your students. Watch them in their concerts and plays, coach their sporting teams and be visible in the playground.
However, sometimes like in MAFS, we place too much pressure on things going a certain way. We invest so much time and energy into our students that we expect them to live up to our expectations at all times. But, they’re going to make mistakes and we can’t let our own emotions get in the way when this happens. Be the calming influence, that your students can trust to model the consistent behaviour that is expected of them.
Teaching is a profession that requires us to go all in. Once you “walk down that aisle,” realise that you have made a commitment to invest in your students “for better or worse!”