A few weeks ago I tweeted “Experience has taught me that students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” While in short term situations, this isn’t necessarily always true but it is for mid to long term teaching. Basically, when you teach you are performing and attempting to change individuals thoughts, perceptions and actions. While I can approach the class with the “Sage on the Stage” attitude and if they don’t understand what’s being taught, it’s their problem. However, to effectively change lives and improve retention, there has to be a personal connection. Don’t underestimate how the connection between a caring teacher and a student can literally change lives. One of my biggest thrills is when graduates contact me years after they graduated and catch me up on what they’ve been doing.
So, how do you make the connection. Here are a few tips:
- First, be yourself. Don’t pretend to be out going and jolly if that’s who you are not. While I like to think I’ve mastered the art of faking sincerity, the truth is, students can see through the facade.
- Second, invest in your students. Relationships come at a price and it’s usually “time”. I’ve attended a few extra hockey, volleyball, basketball games not to mention a few musical recitals to support students. One of the students ran up to me after their game and hugged me to thank me for coming.
- Third, work the aisles. Teach in a way that will allow you to sit with students in class and allow them some one-on-one time. This will help build the relationship as well as that time could be something that won’t be forgotten.
I remember I went to a conference many years ago and in one of the sessions, I was blown away by a speaker and what he was doing. I met with him afterwards and told him how much I appreciated what he was doing. He asked, do you want get together over lunch to go over some of my experiments. That one hour I spent with him over lunch was worth the admission for the entire conference. It drastically reduced my learning curve and I was so grateful for what he shared with me.
While showing you care can come at a cost and appropriate distance is also very important, the rewards are well worth it. As another school year comes to a close, I’m again hit with the bitter sweet emotions. While I’m looking forward to the rest, I am really going to miss my students. This year was the inaugural launch of Canada’s first Mobile Application Development program and we have a very small class. I’ve grown very close to each student and will truly miss them when they venture off to launch their careers.
I would be curious to know what you think about how a teacher’s caring effects student’s learning. Are you a student who has be taught by a caring or a non-caring instructor? What was your experience. What about instructors and facilitators. What are some of your tips on connecting with your students?