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“We, as educators, chose the profession for a reason. We want to develop a connection with all of our students,” said Cheyne Christensen, technology teacher at NS. “All teachers want to connect with their students, but the students have to be receptive to the connection.”
Student-teacher connections often contribute to classroom learning and instruction. Influencing the richness of understanding by the students and the quality of the lesson.
“Some subjects students can get by, just by attending class and paying attention. But there are others where it can be difficult for the student to succeed in the class without the teacher trying to connect,” said Kylee Davis, Senior.
Multiple studies have shown an improvement in engagement, behavior and overall academic achievement when student-teacher connections are founded.
According to a recent study from the University of Virginia, “Improving students’ relationships with teachers has important, positive, and long-lasting implications for both students’ academic and social development. … The student is likely to trust her teacher more, show more engagement in learning, behave better in class and achieve at higher levels academically.”
When a connection is established in the classroom between the students and their teacher, a different impact is found within instruction time.
“When I have classes where both teacher and students like to interact, I feel that we can get deeper into the lesson,” said Jori Turpin, English and French teacher. “[I feel] that the students want to hear more and that we can get into deeper levels of learning because we’re not just getting through the material. When your students actually want to talk to you and you have a relationship with them, the learning seems to be more fun and less rushed.”
When the teacher is able to have a better understanding of their students they are able to create or alter lessons to better cater to the students and their success in learning the material.
“The more the teachers get to know their students, the more they know what works best,” sophomore Haven Caldwell said. “And I feel like they have that love for them that wants them to succeed, so they try to ‘change’ the lesson to help students learn better because everyone learns differently.”
Teachers are able to make these adjustments based upon the effort they see by the students and the positive and negative impressions made on the teacher provided the student-teacher connection.
“When there is a connection, students are more willing to put more effort into their work,” Christensen said. “I think this exposes their weaknesses and strengths in a way that the educator can provide greater feedback that will foster more growth.”
A beneficial and impactful student-teacher connection can be approached and achieved in a variety of methods, each primarily depending on the teacher as well as the students.
“I take an active role in trying to understand them.” Christensen said. “While students work, I roam around the room and will try to have an interaction with them. I also love going to their extracurricular activities. I think that goes a long way in showing your investment in them.”
Other teachers rely on open communication with their students to gain connections, often resulting in a greater increase in communication effort by the students as well.
“Communication is vital. Some teachers will go out of their way to inform you of what you’re missing or what you can improve on.” Ashley Ortiz, Senior, said. “If you have a stable connection with your teacher, you’ll most likely communicate with them better.”
Extracurriculars such as sports and clubs can be a key to developing a connection as it is a point of interest and commitment by the student.
“I pay attention to the sports they play or the other extracurriculars they participate in. I am hopeless at being up to date on current music or movies, so I look for areas that I can connect with students,” Kate Carney, NS English teacher said. “Did I watch them perform at the football game on Friday whether as a football player, musician, drill teamer, or cheerleader? I remember one time last year where I took notes during the game because I wouldn’t see most of the students until Tuesday to be able to commend them on a great football game.”
At times, a connection is hard to achieve due to barriers in understanding or commitment by the students.
“It’s difficult when you have students that have completely mentally removed themselves from being present,” said NS drama teacher Alex Barlow. “Some students are physically present but mentally are somewhere else and that makes it difficult to connect with them or reach them.”
Many students struggle with engaging in school due to their attention being pulled in other directions of importance to them.
“The students who don’t want to be at school at all are a challenge [to connect with],” Carney said. “Some students would rather be outside working on the farm or a car, cutting hay–whatever it is that is not stuck inside. Not everyone is cut out for sitting in a classroom for long hours.”
Even when a connection proves difficult to establish the reward and benefits that both the students and teacher receive are irreplaceable.
Previously, Christensen received a student that had been described as difficult by the other teachers who were all very restrictive with the student.
“I decided to take a different approach and showed him respect first,” Christensen said. “As disruptions occurred, I would talk with him and we developed an understanding and got to the point where there weren’t any disruptions. He also said that all teachers hated him and he appreciated the connection he and I had developed. I had struck the kid out before he even had the chance to bat. It was a great learning experience for me.”
The connection between a student and a teacher can sometimes be a crucial adult influence they lack in their personal lives.
“It’s unfortunate, but I’ve had a few students who felt like I was the only adult in their life that treated them nicely or cared about them,” Barlow said. “For some students who come from rough backdrops, or have hard home lives, their connections with their teachers might be the only positive adult influence they have.”
By human law of nature, not everyone connects and that includes students and teachers, though even when a connection is not made, teachers still care and strive to support their students.
“Even if a student doesn’t connect with me, or even like me,” said Barlow, “I still really hope that they know that I care about them and I want them to be successful. No teacher wants a student to fail.”
A connection with a teacher is often not forgotten by the student and influences them even as time passes.
“You are more likely to remember them in the future, and make you want to learn more about anything or even wanting to go to college,” Caldwell said.
Connections aren’t only cherished and remembered by students, but also by the teachers.
“I like it when I have students, years later, tell me that they loved my class or they miss my class,” Turpin said. “They remember short stories we read or things we talked about because we were both engaged and learning and having fun at the same time.”