Each student we have in our schools is unique and reacts differently to different situations. How we connect to who they are as individuals is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model. As teachers, it is so important to find ways to build rapport with our students so that they develop a trusting and positive working relationship with the teacher in the school community. By going out of our way to connect with a student on a personal level can have an exponential impact inside our classroom.
Year 3 students participate in a Laptop Bootcamp on a weekly basis with myself, the Education Technology Coach, to support their transition from iPads to MacBooks. This is primarily skills-based with meaningful connections to their units of inquiry. The first week of the Laptop Bootcamp found me faced with a Year 3 student who was having a challenging time. He wouldn’t listen to the directions, leading him to become frustrated when he was unable to do something. He wasn’t open to asking for help or receiving support. He didn’t want to do it, stated he couldn’t do it and that he didn’t want to even use them. He began disturbing other students and preventing them from doing the task at hand. No matter what I did to try to help ease the task, his negative attitude and mindset prevented him from being successful. I walked away from the class knowing that I had to find a way to reach this child and that the flow of the class for the rest of the year would depend on it.
With the clear goal of finding a way to connect with the student, I tried to figure out a way that would know that I genuinely cared about the student. The first thing was to look for him in the playground at break and ask him what kind of mood he was in today. He told me not a good one, which led to further discussion of some things he was struggling with outside of school and we brainstormed how he might go about changing these things and also how he might be able to change his mood at school. I wasn’t sure how successful I had been with the one interaction and knew it needed to be a reoccurring pattern for him to begin to develop trust.
The next day I saw him and asked about his evening and how he was feeling about things today. While his mood had shifted slightly, there was still more that needed to be done. I needed to find a way that made him feel unique and special. So I did what anyone would do before moving on. I asked what he thought about a secret handshake just for the two of us. He looked at me kind of funny and then showed me one he wanted to have.
Every time I see him whether it’s on the playground, in the hallway, or in the classroom, we do our handshake. He lights up with a smile knowing that we have the coolest handshake in town. In class, gets a reassuring ‘You got this’ with a handshake as a combo as he heads back to the desk and tackles the challenge of the day. This week, not only was ready and listening as soon as I got started, but he also finished the task and started helping other students be successful.
What could have been an ongoing and constant challenge in the class became a positive experience for a student and an opportunity to empower him to support others and be a leader in the classroom. Never underestimate the smallest gestures and interactions. One gesture might make the largest difference.