If you have been teaching for longer than 5 minutes then you already know that the single most important aspect in the classroom is the relationships within the classroom: The way the students interact with each other and, perhaps more importantly, the relationship between the student and the teacher.
This was the overwhelming truth my colleague and I uncovered in our investigations into student engagement last year during our professional leave … and it has been the wet fish that has been hitting me in the face since changing schools at the start of the year!
I have a theory that the first three weeks in any new school/classroom are the hardest. As a CRT or new teacher I found that once you have survived three weeks the students perceive you as permanent, you seem to embed into their memory, and they generally stop fighting you and start to accept you.
The first three weeks are about testing your consistency. What boundaries do you have? Which ones wiggle a bit and which ones do you hold firm on? They want to see how you react or not, as the case may be.
Once the students accept that you are there to stay they seem to stop fighting so hard and start to let you in so you can build relationships. It’s at this point that I can start to build the trust … get them to ‘buy in’ and believe that I have a plan for the class as a whole but also for them individually. With trust comes the ability to take some risks and have some fun in the classroom. To ignite and flame their passion for learning … we have some great heated discussions in my senior classes, not always on topic but always challenging us to think and communicate more precisely!
I have been at my ‘new’ school for a semester. I have had the same classes for 6 months. So I feel that should have moved past this invisible barrier and with most of the classes I have!
But I found myself taking 20 steps back with my yr 8 class and it feels like I’m starting all over again.
So, here in week 2 of term 3, I find myself reflecting on what makes this group the tough nut to crack?
- They are a very mixed bag of personalities, but that in itself is not unusual.
- They don’t gel well as a group even though they have been a ‘class’ with a few changes for 18 months … that is also not unusual, these are the emotional roller-coaster years.
- I’m struggling to find a hook to get their interest (you know, that buzz word “engage” them) … just when I think I’ve found something and I try a repeat performance it goes pear-shaped. I seem to manage to appeal to a different sub-group within the class with each activity but haven’t managed to quite get the formula right for the whole class.
My challenge is to find the spark to ignite their interest … one activity, one idea, one moment … that we can get momentum from. When it happens … I’ll let you know!!