Importance of Knowing Your Students
Last week, one of our students had a mild seizure.
At the time, we didn’t realize it was happening. The classroom teacher asked him a question and he stared up at her and didn’t respond. She began to get angry with him. She thought his lack of response was because he didn’t complete his homework assignment. He continued to stare up at her as she asked, “Do you or do you NOT have it?”
At that point, she became so frustrated at him that she grabbed her clipboard and threatened to give him a conduct mark for being disrespectful and defiant. She asked him again, “Do you have it? Say yes or no.” The student slowly shook his head – left to right – at which point she gave him two conduct marks – one for ignoring her and one for forgetting his assignment at home.
This landed him in detention.
When I walked into her classroom, she pulled me – and the student – into her planning room. She explained what happened and she asked me if I would talk to him to figure out why he was acting so strange. Before she left the room, she asked him, “Are you upset? If I took off the conduct marks if you promise to work with Ms. Divya, will that fix it?” He just stared at her. She angrily walked out of the room and left me to talk to this child.
We’ve had some medical scares with this student before.
He has diabetes and is required to check in with the nurse frequently to make sure his blood sugar is at an appropriate level. I asked him if I could see his insulin pump which displays his sugar level. He fumbled around in his pocket for it and slowly handed it to me. It didn’t appear to be out of range.
I asked him other questions about his day and his responses seemed very unusual.
This was not normal.
This wasn’t an act that he put on because he feared a detention for not turning in an assignment. This was something more serious. So I walked him up to the nurse’s office and we waited together until his mom arrived to take him to the doctor.
He spent the following two days at the hospital as the neurologist ran some tests. And, as our school nurse had suspected, he must have had a seizure in the classroom.
Importance of Knowing Your Students
Within the first 10 seconds of interacting with this student, I could tell something wasn’t right. I pull this child for 45 minutes each day for his reading intervention. So I’ve spent quite a bit of time with him. I didn’t need a doctorate or nursing license to figure out that his behavior was atypical.
I just needed to know him.
Building a relationship with our students takes time. Sure, some days, it may even chop off 10-15 minutes of a lesson you’ve planned for your class. But it’s important. It’s more important than the content. Because you’re not just teaching content. You’re teaching CHILDREN.
And if content is truly what you prioritize, you need to know that studies have shown – time and time again – that teachers who put in a little more effort to get to know their students end up getting more out of their students.
3 Things You Can Do to Get to Know Your Students:
1) Schedule time in your lessons to go off the script or curriculum.
Just always assume that you are going to need more time to cover content than you actually do. This gives you wiggle room. That means that if Jason gets called on to make a prediction about the space story you’re going to read and he goes on for 5 minutes about the time his cousin dressed up like an astronaut, you aren’t freaking out on your insides or snapping at him for ruining read aloud for everyone.
2) Greet your students at the door.
Even if you’re not entirely set up for the lesson. Even if you may not want to make eye contact with the teacher down the hallway. It’s such a small act, but it makes a world of difference. In the classroom where the teacher greeted the students at the door, there was an increase in student engagement from 45 percent to 72 percent (Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 2007 and 2011). This means that you’ve acknowledged each and every single one of your students before they even set foot in your classroom. That 1:1 check-in is a great way to gauge whether your student is ready for the day or may need a little extra love before they unpack their stuff.
3) Make time during your day to show students that you care about what is happening in their lives.
Sometimes I will pop my head in their other classes when I have my prep time. Or sometimes I’ll invite them to my room for a Lunch Bunch. And, even when I hate getting to work early, I enjoy having them in my room with me as I set up for the day. Because it allows for us to talk about things that are unrelated to their reading levels and science tests. I can talk to them about their siblings, their likes/dislikes, their plans for the weekend.
It may not come naturally. It may require a little more effort on your end. But the rewards are absolutely worth it. You will have an impact on your students’ lives for many, many years after they leave your classroom.
Questions of the Day:
- What steps do you take to get to know your students better? What would you add to this list?
- If you are a parent, what would you want your child’s teacher to know about your child?