The First Year Teaching: Getting to know your students
By Matthew Lynch
During the early days of your teaching career, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the all the tasks associated with your occupation, and to forget the real reason you are in the classroom: your students. Good relationships with students will help you to create and maintain an effective learning environment. If students see that you truly care, they will trust you and want to learn what you are teaching.
It is for these reasons that your relationship with your students is crucial for effective classroom management. As every student is different in many ways, from academic ability to personality, try to learn as much as you can about every student. With large class sizes in higher grades, it might not be easy to get to know each student personally, but you should try. The goal is not to be a “friend” to your students, or act as a peer, but to really know and care about who they are and how they best learn.
Start with the basics
Start by remembering their names as quickly as possible. A well-prepared seating chart can be extremely useful in this regard. Students are less likely to misbehave when they know that you can identify them by name. You could ask students to bring a picture as an assignment. Consider structuring an assignment that allows students to give you details about their home environment, background, parental occupations and any other things that make them who they are.
You should also plan to learn more about their family lives, where they come from and how they view learning (as best you can). What outside factors impact the learning methods and styles of your students? How can you best shape those experiences for a successful school experience?
Be the boss
Young teachers face the toughest spot when establishing an authoritative stance with their students, especially if they are teaching middle or high school courses. There is certainly some appeal to being the “cool” teacher, but not to the point that your students are not respecting you, or even worse, not learning anything. Establishing classroom rules and reminding those who sidestep them will help you manage your classroom efficiently all year round.
Learn their learning style
You probably already observed this during the student-teaching process, but every student learns in a different way and with a different style. There is simply no way to take the one-on-one time to address these needs, but you can at least observe the way that different students respond to certain assignments or activities. This will guide you as you plan future in-class and at-home projects, giving your students an opportunity to shine. It is not enough to simply know WHO they are as individuals — you should also consider who they are as students to best guide them to optimal learning experiences.
You will quickly find that you will learn just as much from your students as they will learn from you. Take the time to get to know them — it will benefit your teaching style and their achievement.