"I heard you give homework on the first day of school, I think that is a stupid idea..." the little tank of a person standing before me blurted out.
"I want you to know that I'm not going to do it, or any of the homework you assign, I think that it is all stupid."
"We'll discuss work outside of class momentarily, for now, please find your seat." I tried to calmly respond. It was the first day of school, and I had not yet even learned the student's name.
"OK, I just wanted to give you a heads-up." He quickly quipped back.
"What is your name?"
"Travis, and school isn't my thing, and I already don't like you because you're a teacher."
"Well Travis, challenge accepted, now head to your seat buddy."
Frequent readers have come to realize that I place a lot of value in the words of wisdom coming from mentors. Again, I believe that mentorship is an underrated component to success.
A mentor once told me that education is simple: get the kids to like you and they'll do work for you.
Wow, get the kids to like you. But there is a fine line in getting the students to like you, and being "that guy" who tries to hard and pushes the students away.
This article is about how I get my students to like me, without being "that guy." This article is not meant to be a pat on the back or a three page look at me ramble. This article is meant to give you a couple ideas to hook your students.
Hook them once and you'll catch them for the year.
1. Be interested in what they are interested in
The first homework assignment for the year, as our young guy was addressing, is a student information sheet. The assignment asks specific questions and elicits specific answers. Rather than doing it in class and wasting precious time together, they do it at home and have a chance to spend productive time on each item .
Use the student information sheet for personal prompts. For example, rather than saying "Alyssa, how was your weekend?" you can ask "Alyssa, did you get a chance to ride this weekend?" because you read on her student information sheet she rides horses.
This difference means a lot.
On a more personal note, I have found music to be an unbelievable way to initiate conversations with hard to reach students. You know the student I'm discussing- especially if you teach high school. They listen the the music that no one else considers audible and they often wear merchandise from their band. Take five minutes, look up the bands, try to listen to it, and learn one thing about the it-- anything. Use it as a way to approach them and initiate a conversation.
2. Tell personal stories...
... but not too personal.
"My ex-wife is such a witch! She won't let me see my kids so I spent all summer trying to get shared custody!" said my Earth Science teacher on the first day of school in 1998.
Stories about dogs, babies, camping, TV shows, movies, etc. are helpful because they are available to everyone, a story about your ex-wife is not. Since everyone knows at least one baby, a quick, funny story about your baby niece is appropriate. Focus on story-lines that are relatable.
Short, humorous stories are also a great way to prime your students for learning.
Stories give the students material to use if they choose to approach you.
Hooking them with a chuckle is a no-brainer; give it a try
3. Realize they do things outside your classroom, and watch them doing those things
Kids are often more busy than adults. They are proud of what they accomplish. Further, just like you and I, they love recognition.
Attending their out-of-the-classroom event and telling them they did a great job is a major step in hooking students. There are ample opportunities: athletic events, concerts, plays, etc.
Additionally, when attending school functions, you become visible, which is often an issue for new teachers.
Hook a student by commenting on their performance and showing genuine interest in how they did.
4. Be likable... in appropriate ways
Students were testing a new student teacher and I heard this as I passed the classroom:
"Mr. K, do you play beer pong?"
"Not only do I play, but I'm awesome at it!"
New teachers want, desperately, to be liked by their students. It takes several years for that desire to subside and and is a defining characteristic during the novice-professional teacher transformation.
There is a difference between your students liking you as a friend and respecting you as an adult. You do not want to be their friend, and therefore you do not play beer pong.
We've discussed that students like a teacher if they are interesting and organized.
You can share hobbies, favorite bands, vacation destinations, and anything that anybody else can share. As soon as it crosses the border into inappropriate land, you must draw the line and pull the teacher card.
Hooking a student is sometimes simply done by being a nice person and sharing a common interest.
5. Be real
Adolescent learners are exceptional at perceiving liars and their counterpart, people who are genuine and sincere.
Do not lie to your students. They will know. (Don't you know when a student is lying?)
Do not bluff and do not threaten. Hook and engage them voluntarily and not forcefully.
Share your feelings: "I feel happy because as I look around, every lab group is working" or "When you behave the way you did, I'm distracted, that makes me frustrated."
Sharing emotions as above are real comments that are respected. A student will not respect "Hey, cut it out, or I'm calling your Mom!"
Speak to your students as you would like to be spoken to. Again, be genuine and authentic.
A fake personality pushes your students away. Draw them in with language that induces emotion and avoid aggressive, combative phrases.
How do you hook your students? Connect with The Pragmatic TV Teacher and share!
Thanks for reading.