It seems like very few days go by when I don’t hear one story or another about the positive impact a teacher that “got” them made on someone’s life. I also hear lots of stories about unbearable school years where a teacher just didn’t connect with someone and this lack of connection made a negative impact on the individual’s perception of school in general, the subject matter being taught, and (most importantly) their own self esteem.
These examples are backed up by numerous recent research studies which conclude that positive teacher-student relationships have been shown to support students’ adjustment to school, contribute to their social skills, promote academic performance, and foster students’ resiliency in academic performance. (Battistich, Schaps, & Wilson, 2004; Birch & Ladd, 1997; Hamre & Pianta, 2001)
In fact, ASCD’s email newsletter just yesterday stated, “students as learners are also students as people, with hopes, fears, and needs. That’s why it’s so important to build adult-student relationships that support and encourage each student’s academic and personal growth. The frequency and perceived worth of interaction (PDF) with faculty, staff, and other students is one of the strongest predictors not only of student persistence but also of student learning.”
This belief is the foundation upon which Kidzmet is built. And it shouldn’t be something that we expect just from interpersonally gifted instructors that have an innate talent for connecting with people. We should expect a fervent attempt at true connection from EVERY teacher a child has in school. It doesn’t just benefit the students, it gives the teacher the experience of having a room full of students that are not only more engaged throughout the school year, but who wrap up the school year thinking, “s/he was the best teacher I’ve ever had.”
Throughout May, we’ll be looking for blog comments that tell stories of their most POSITIVE and most NEGATIVE teacher relationship experiences. (It can be yours or your child’s.) It can be a story of a teacher that made you love science because he presented it in a way that “clicked” for you. Or a teacher that used the *wrong* approach to motivate you and you spent the year dreaming up excuses about why you couldn’t make it to her class. Or even the story of a teacher that came highly recommended by another parent, but that just didn’t “get” your child.
Everyone who posts a story will get a Kidzmet Classroom Account gift card to pass along to a teacher, so that she can understand how each individual student in her class ticks and hit the ground running with new student relationships. Save it until you know who your child’s next teacher is in the Fall; pass it along to a sports coach, tutor or summer activities leader; or even gift it to this year’s teacher so that he is better prepared to welcome his new batch of students this Fall. It’s entirely up to you.
We’re looking forward to hearing everyone’s stories!!
To our kids’ collective success,
As I speak with principals, assistant superintendents and curriculum directors each day, one of the first questions I always ask is “what is it that separates your superstar teachers from the rest of the pack?” The answer that comes back is always the same: “They are able to connect with each of their students,” “they tailor their lesson strategies to each class,” or “their classes are consistently engaged.”
Sounds a lot like another profession I was in for a couple of decades…marketing. A marketer’s job is to take a product and make it look/sound as appealing as possible to the target audience so that they’ll listen long enough to eventually be convinced to buy it based on the messages in their packaging, advertising and brochures. The selected message and advertising vehicle for products is not the same—it needs to be tweaked, tailored and massaged based on the target demographic. Focus groups are run in which all KINDS of perspectives are heard. A/B test splits are executed. Even if the message is perfected for a certain group, it will need to be modified if it’s to effectively reach a different target.
A teacher’s job is to take a concept and make it look/sound as appealing as possible to students so that they’ll engage long enough to eventually learn it based on the messages in lesson plans, homework and breakout groups. And, just as with marketing, the selected lessons and breakout groups need to be tweaked, tailored and massaged for the class based on who’s sitting in the classroom. Even if a unit is a hit with one class, the teacher will most likely need to modify it to most effectively reach their class mix either the next year…or next period.
In fact, the teacher’s job is INFINITELY harder than the marketer’s job because, while marketers can get a pat on the back for getting just a percentage of their target audience to purchase the product…the teacher is expected to get every kid in class to “buy” the concept.
Master teachers are able to do this because they often have an innate interpersonal gift. They intuitively know how to reach very different students. They are able to convince a raucous group of teenagers why geometry is and will be important to them. They are able to contextualize history in ways that students will be able to remember so that we’re not all doomed to repeat past horrors. They work magic with student breakout groups so that students are empowered to learn from each other and admire the unique strengths of their peers. They’re able to detect when a student “learns different” and help both the student and their parent modify the ways in which homework is approached so that the child has a greater chance of success with learning.
Why’s this important? Harvard & Columbia recently released the findings of a longitudinal study of 2.5 million students over 20 years that show the dramatic impact that quality teachers can have on their students. They are more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, live in better neighborhoods and save more for retirement. They are also less likely to become pregnant as a teenager.
But earning your stripes as a quality teacher is more meaningful than just for the students. It’s a much more enjoyable profession for the teacher when she feels she’s reaching or, better yet, inspiring her students. At long last, the education and EdTech sectors are beginning to take notice and calling this new ground swell Personalization 3.0. But, at Kidzmet, we feel that what EdWeek has dubbed Personalization 3.0 isn’t using a wide enough angle lens. While the teacher-student relationship is important, so is engaging the parents as a critical member of a child’s learning team…as is beginning to harness the power of compatible student groups. In short, we believe that ALL learning relationships matter in a student’s education. Parent-student, teacher-student, parent-teacher, and student-student.
What about you? Do you feel that content positioning is as important as content pacing in educating our youth?
It’s time for your next mission meet-up!
Talk to each other about what your experience was with your responsibilities from Part 4. Did everyone do what they said they were going to do? Did some people do more than they had planned?
Analyze your results by writing down these 3 numbers for each of the different techniques you and your fellow advocates tried:
- How many people were you able to connect with about your mission?
- How many of those people could understand why it’s important to you…and should be to them.
- Use a calculator to divide the number of people you were able to inspire by the number of people you were able to connect with.
Talk about which techniques were most effective in terms of:
- Reach (how many people you were able to connect with using that technique)
- Conversion rate (what percentage of people you were able to get excited about your mission using that technique)
- Evangelist rate (the number of new “advocates” you were able to get to join your meeting as a result of using that technique)
What techniques to “get the word out” do you want to try this time around? Will you use the same ones? Do you want to try new ones? Has your mission changed course as a result of your efforts? Has your focus narrowed or broadened?
Before you go home, be sure to set a date and time for your next small group meeting.
Return to Part 1 with your growing group of advocates and spread the word about what’s important to you to even more people.
You are helping to change the world for the better in ways that are important to you. You should be extremely proud of yourself.
Attend a trade show or conference with some of your fellow advocates and/or a parent that is in alignment with your mission.
(Maybe one of your new email pen pals will also be attending and you can meet!)
Walk the exhibit floor and see what other people are doing that you could work into your plans.
Talk to the people at the booths that are interesting to you and tell them about what you are doing. Get their feedback on other things you might want to try to get the word out or how your two groups could work together to accomplish your goals.
One day closer to the first day of school…
Below, we’ve compiled our favorite 10 language arts activities we’ve featured over the summer (as well as our Summer Reading Lists) to make sure your child gets in gear ahead of time and practices some of the concepts that they learned last year—in a FUN way—below. (That is, if your school follows the Core Standards.)
Want more? Several others are included here:
RECOMMENDED READING LISTS
for kids that particularly enjoy dabbling in specific Multiple Intelligence types.