Practical Tips for Effective Teachers in a Post-Pandemic World
How to build Meaningful Relationships with Students
The post-pandemic world will be a challenging time to teach, coach and mentor our youth, as they will all have been affected in different ways by lockdowns and the impact of the pandemic on their family. All that I share on this page I can vouch for from my own teaching, coaching and mentoring experiences over a forty year period. May they serve as an encouragement to you.
“Attitude will determine the Altitude at which I’ll travel when I am with my students!”
Build into your philosophical thinking and actions the key needs of your students. They want to:
- Feel cared for (loved)
- Feel valued
- Feel that their lives have meaning and purpose
When interacting with students, ask yourself: How is my behavior meeting my students’ key needs? Some helpful tips to promote the spirit of mentoring when teachers interact with students:
- Ensure your students feel safe and secure at all times.
- Remind your students that they choose their attitude to all that is going on around them, including how they respond to challenges they face. Teach them how and when to be vulnerable.
- Be a seed sower: every word, action, facial expression will be interpreted in a positive or negative manner by your perceptive students.
- Have a fair and consistent approach to discipline and students will respect you.
- Be an effective, non-judgmental listener, always respectful, empathetic and genuine. Say, Please! and Thank you!
- Be pro-active and discourage potentially life-threatening behavior.
- Never humiliate a student in public.
- Be patient – students are in different spaces because of their personal circumstances.
- Watch body language and learn to look behind the outward appearances as well.
- Keep a sense of humor and willingly laugh at yourself.
- Keep an open mind and be flexible.
- Negotiate boundaries or a code of conduct with the students you teach or coach.
- Avoid making assumptions – get the factual details!
- Talk to your students about goal getting and management of time – sometimes goal getting becomes a positive way to connect with students. Don’t have unrealistic expectations. Focus on your students’ performances, not just the outcomes
- Take a pride in your appearance – be well organized, efficient and reliable.
- Have an open door policy i.e. be approachable if students want to speak to you out of class time.
- Mix up the marking pens – symbolism of red to most students? – and look to write a corrective and affirming comment each time you return students’ work
- Always respect cultural values such as eye contact; when and when not to praise students in public, or at other times.
- Be aware of what your students are achieving in extracurricular activities or other academic disciplines and then affirm them.
- Return written and project work promptly.
- Catch students doing good things and affirm them: in the school corridors, on the sport field, in cultural or music groups, or other places.
- If you are meeting a student face-to-face, move from behind your desk and sit alongside them – this creates a more informal atmosphere.
- Look at ways of involving parents and caregivers as much as possible such as at parent evenings; cultural activities; sport or other school activities. Maybe even phone a parent to pass on a compliment about something positive their child has done from time to time or send an SMS.
- Use school outings as a time to positively interact with your students i.e. travelling to and from events. The less formal, structured times are great opportunities for positive interaction with your students.
- If the situation of a student warrants it, look to involve other agencies or relevant organizations in the student’s life, preferably with their permission i.e. build a web of support around the student, preferably with the help of colleagues.
- Encourage your students to evaluate your teaching or coaching – this shows them that they are valued.
- Take the ‘but’ out of your sentences as much as possible.
- If you have your own teaching area, purchase some motivational posters, fun posters, meaningful and encouraging quotes – these becomes valuable food for the soul of a bored student and are also a reflection of your values and beliefs!
- When meeting a class or group of students for the first time, give them a non-threatening survey e.g. favorite food; favorite subject; sports; hobbies/interests; favorite CD/DVD/TV Program/YouTube clip; pets; someone they look up to and admire and why.
- Create your own certificates, methods to affirm students who are making good progress (including the weaker students). As long as you are genuine when you award them, they will respond positively.
- Encourage all your students to participate in class discussions. By being sensitive and sympathetic, often during the early stages of teaching a new class, you can ask weaker students to respond to questions they are likely to be able to answer, challenge the brighter students – thus all feel more competent, courageous and capable, contributing to the development of high self-esteem.
- When you take a class for the first time, consider seating them in alphabetical order initially (unless a student has special needs such as eye problems, hearing difficulties or a disability of some sort). Tell them that this is a way you find helpful to get to know their names. It sorts out negative peer groups. After a while, let them move around and observe the group dynamics.
- Encourage cooperative learning – students work in groups and are marked according to their group outcome. Plenty of seeds of mentoring can be sown during such activities.
- Students enjoy group work – vary your teaching methods to cater for this.
- Ask students to help you with chores such as carrying books or running errands as this shows them they are valued.
- Use class situations to teach life skills such as resolving conflicts, improving communication skills, problem-solving, or anger management.
- Students enjoy being called by their first names. Pronounce them correctly.
- Think about targeting your most difficult and challenging student and, through adopting some of the methods above, consider how you can assist the student to reach their potential – a wonderful goal setting task!
- At all times remember that you are the adult in the relationship. Be a positive and effective role model.