Building a better relationship with my better students?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Peregrin5, Dec 31, 2013.

  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Building relationships with students who are struggling behaviorally comes very naturally to me. Perhaps it's because they demand more of my attention and I need relationships with them in order for them to be successful in my class.

    However I have noticed that I am not so great at building relationships with my top students. They like me, and there are a few who I do have good relationships with (mainly because of their go-get-em personality), but with the other more quiet and serious students, there seems to be an invisible shell I cannot crack. By their nature I don't need to talk to them as much because they generally get it, and they're not behavioral problems.

    But I don't see them having as much fun in my class sometimes. There's something fundamentally missing there and I feel like I don't have that relationship. From my observations, high achieving students like them tend to find one teacher they really connect to, and they will be very connected to that teacher throughout the year, even letting down their hair in that class. (Usually it's the geometry class because that is where we have a high concentration of top students. They're usually quieter in a classroom of mixed levels like science.)

    How do you reach out to these students? (They're also always the ones that give you presents for Christmas and the end of the year.)
     
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  3. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    I make an effort to see them excel outside of the classroom. If I know they're on a sports team or involved in choir/band/school play or other activity, I'll ask when their next event or game is. Then, I go and watch them be awesome. Showing that I care about them as people, not just as students, has worked for me.
     
  4. TeacherGroupie

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    Some of these students are likely to have inferred, after eight years, that their job in the classroom is not to need help. I like BumbleB's suggestion: find things to notice about them that aren't academic.
     
  5. 2ndTimeAround

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    I'd try the other suggestion but honestly, I wouldn't be too concerned. The students are being successful. You aren't there to be their friend. And it doesn't really matter if you don't get extra presents from them.
     
  6. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    2ndTimeAround, I don't think Peregrin's fishing for extra presents: I think he's trying to provide appropriate presence.
     
  7. 2ndTimeAround

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    I would hope so. But this is what was said at the end of the post:

    How do you reach out to these students? (They're also always the ones that give you presents for Christmas and the end of the year.)
     
  8. 2ndTimeAround

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    Exactly. Students tend to like the teachers best when they teach their favorite subjects. There are exceptions, of course.

    I want my students to enjoy their time in my classroom, but I am not naïve enough to believe that all students will love my subject more than the others. It won't happen and it isn't a contest.
     
  9. comaba

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    I read that as noting the irony of Peregrin receiving gifts from students with whom he hasn't developed a relationship.
     
  10. Linguist92021

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    I also took it as feeling kind of unworthy of receiving gifts of present with whom he doesn't even have a relationship with, not looking for gifts.
     
  11. comaba

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    Nice word-play! :p
     
  12. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Which is exactly how I meant it. Thanks for being keen enough to realize that and sorry for not being clearer.
     
  13. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    Well, from my own experience as a top kid, my ability to build a relationship with you was directly tied to my interest in your subject. My 8th grade science teacher could have had the kindness of Jesus Christ, the humor of Louis CK and the looks of Marilyn Monroe, and I still never would have developed a relationship with that teacher because I didn't give a crap about the subject, and because I didn't need a relationship with the teacher to get straight 100% for the year. Without fail, I loved all my Social Studies and Music teachers, and had a thinly veiled contempt for my Science teachers (except for those that incorporated astronomy), just because of what my interests were.
     
  14. 2ndTimeAround

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    Good to hear. I misread that part. My sentiment still stands, though. This is not something to worry about. You already are doing a good job. Focus on the ones that aren't learning and aren't behaving. You will never be everyone's favorite teacher or have the most interesting class for all students. Nor should that be your goal.
     
  15. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Well that's something I also don't really understand. Science is AMAZING. We have investigative hands on labs and practicals, projects, art assignments, we involve technology, and for the first few weeks, every student says that science is their favorite subject this year. Their interest in it cools over the year though. It seems they get used to the labs and start to expect unexpected things to happen daily (crazy demos and things). o___O

    I don't understand how the history teacher who essentially teaches from a textbooks holds their attention and hearts for so long. Or how the math teacher does it.

    I guess I'd have to say that I do have a group of students who are still as fascinated as they were at the beginning of the year or those who have become interested in it, and maybe it's just different strokes for different folks, but I'm doing all I can to keep kids interested in the subject.
     
  16. gr3teacher

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    It had nothing to do with my teachers. I just wasn't interested in science unless it had to do with space. Plus, I tended to be a bit of a klutz, so I actually dreaded labs. Your top kids tend to be pretty self-motivated. You making the class more interesting won't do as much to interest them as it will the rest of the class.
     
  17. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Yeah, and that's exactly where I'm worried. My efforts to make the class more interesting are generally well received by the struggling students, but seem to be taken indifferently by the high-achieving students.
     
  18. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    If you're really interested in "getting through" to your top kids, find a way to challenge them, not interest them. Replace the "easy" assignment that you know full well they can do with their eyes closed with something that's going to challenge them. Come up with an independent project for them to do, replace their lab with something more advanced, etc. Just make sure that they know you aren't giving them MORE work.
     
  19. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I would love more resources on how to do that. I tried posing a challenge to my top students for extra credit to complete a project for a science competition, but there were a ton of issues. First off, the kids I was really trying to reach, who might think my class is boring didn't even want to go for it (maybe because it was extra work, and top students probably have enough on their plate and probably don't need the extra credit). Secondly, it ended up being too complex to keep up, and they were getting stuck in very early stages of just trying to figure out what to do for their project and I didn't really know how to help them.
     
  20. gr3teacher

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    I just finished a class on differentiation for gifted kids. It was geared towards elementary teachers (obviously...), but one of the resources the instructor provided was this article.

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct...3f4p7TO60AvHQtrNw&sig2=tceoJRQspklGtgCcl3OLbA

    Keeping in mind obviously that I'm not a science expert, this article seems like it might be a good place to start.

    The biggest thing to keep in mind with gifted kids is that they're largely used to coasting through the classes they aren't interested in. I took high school chemistry, advanced biology, and 8 credits of undergraduate science, and I can still honestly say that I never did a single science assignment outside of school, unless you want to count me staying after school to make up a biology test I was absent for sophomore year. I teach gifted kids now, and you can definitely tell by their work quality which subject(s) they enjoy, and which they don't.
     
  21. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Thanks for the resources! I'll take a look at them.
     
  22. RadiantBerg

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    I find it the opposite. I spend much more time with my struggling students---they are always in my room for extra help, and I tend to learn more about them. The stronger students would be fine without much guidance from me, and they never come in outside of class time.
     
  23. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I think you have similar experiences with both of us then. That is the behavior HeartDrama was describing as well.
     
  24. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

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    I don't see it as our job to keep kids interested all year. Life won't always throw them a dog-and-pony show just to get them to do required things.

    There is a middle ground between teaching things from a textbook and a fun and games kind of classroom.

    I LOVE history. My kindle has over 500 historical fiction and non-fiction books. I will read them for fun all day long.

    A science class like you describe would not appeal to me. My personality is quiet and reserved. I would hate group work and "fun" stuff all the time. I wouldn't need to be entertained because I always had intrinsic motivation to do well. I would want you to teach more lecture-style. All those extra activities in science would drain me.
     
  25. RadiantBerg

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    It sounded like she was describing the exact opposite---that the students are closest to the teacher where they perform the best in. The students I know best hate math with a burning passion :lol:Either way, I don't think it's worth worry much about. For some students, you are just the presenter of the lesson, and I think that is okay.
     
  26. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Something little that helps me connect to my quieter students:hyperbole at their expense.

    I joke around in class a lot. And my kids tend to see me as a mom-like figure; they know I'm not mean spirited in what I say to them. So, for example, a week or two ago I was explaining why school policy prohibits using highlighters on trimester exams. In each class, I chose a bright, quiet kid to use as my example: "Everyone knows that Kelci is a big old cheater and would copy off Tommy if he highlighted his answers." (And, no, I would never choose a kid for whom there was the slightest doubt that the grades were legit.)

    The quiet, bright kids aren't always used to being part of the laughter; they tend to fade into the background. So asking them to call when we play Bingo, or including them on the jokes, really does help them feel part of the classroom community.

    As does: "Kelci, did I tell you about my car trouble yesterday?" when Kelci is the first one to arrive in class. Again, those kids are used to fading into the background and not asking questions... we need to make a conscious effort to include them in all the not-strictly-academic-stuff that happens in class.
     
  27. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Yep. High-achievers don't necessarily like extra work.
     
  28. Linguist92021

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    I think it's perfectly ok not to connect with every single kid every single day. You're there to teach and you'll obviously help those more who struggle. Over time you can build relationships with the higher students by having small conversations, ask them question, make comments / compliments (wow, I like your jacket / did you get a haircut, etc.), but of course don't force those.

    I noticed before that some of the higher students will not have a very outgoing personality and it's hard to crack their shell (which makes me wonder, do I even need to crack it?). And I've met some students who really didn't care about the content / subject, they just wanted a good grade (could be parental pressure, or their own).
     
  29. EdEd

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    So, first Peregrin I've said if before, but I'm constantly impressed with how reflective you are as a teacher. Even after you've accomplished so much, you always want to improve, which is awesome.

    I guess my first question would be are you sure it's the fact that they are high-achieving students? I've always found relationships to be based more on personality or other variables, so it's interesting to me that you're seeing that pattern. If so, I guess my first line of thought would be as others have suggested - it may well be academically related.

    Another thought though - I wonder if you are more invested in your students that are struggling, and that shows to other students. I wonder if you yourself are demonstrating less interest because you find them less interesting? I know with me I've tended to find struggling students more interesting, and they probably pick up on that.

    Another thought would be that students who aren't struggling may not have as much of a need to connect on a deeper level with adults in school. I guess you mentioned those students have closer relationships with other students, but I've found that struggling students who are disengaged in other areas of their life have more need.

    Not sure if any of that's helpful, but thought I'd throw some thoughts in the mix.
     
  30. Linguist92021

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    I think that could be it, too, at least that would be the reason for me. I always found struggling students more interesting, and I get bored with those who seem to have no problems and seem to breeze through life (or at least in school).
    I also found that it was always the quiet students who I got to know the least, even their names were the last ones I had learned. It's not fair, but that's how it is.
    And I think that's what Peregrin meant with the gift comment, that the students who would be the most deserving (and the ones who actually bring presents sometimes) are the ones we hardly know, which should be the other way around.
     
  31. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Let me first say I am NOT saying you do this Peregrin. I just want to share how a student experiencing something like this will carry it over to other classes.

    I know a student who was a high achiever but was struggling with a required task in another class. This student asked me to help at which point I told her she needed to ask the teacher that was requiring the task because that teacher has her own expectations. The student came back distraught. The teacher looked in the grade book, saw the grade, and told the student she was doing fine. The problem was that the student was taking 3 times as long to do the work that was required than it should have taken. That teacher didn't care because the student had great grades and was doing the work.

    Sometimes high achievers come into classes with baggage just like strugglers do. Sometimes it is that they are not valued in the same way as strugglers. So, some develop the attitude that they will do their work and lay low. They stop attempting to build a relationship with a teacher because they were taught if they were doing well that is all that is desired from the teacher.

    We often let high achievers struggle and figure things out themselves because they have the ability. Sometimes if they have had enough classes like that where the focus was on the needier students, they just don't care to try to make that connection anymore because the expectation is that if they are doing fine they just need to blend and not cause problems.

    I admire, Peregrin, that you are thinking about this. You may not be able to develop the relationship you are looking for with these students. Some may need it emotionally as your gut is telling you.
     
  32. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Can I once again give Peregrin a shout out for asking the tough questions of himself??

    Man, what a huge difference a year has made for you!!!
     
  33. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Thanks guys! :wub:

    What I've taken away from this thread so far: more advanced students are more likely to be swayed by differentiating instruction for them so they're not bored with basic things that are below their level. Once they're challenged, they'll be at a point where they'll be a little more reliant on the teacher to help them through, and a better teacher-student relationship can be built there. There needs to be an element of struggle or challenge for the students for that relationship to build, which makes sense to me because the better students usually build strong bonds with the geometry teacher (geometry is the most advanced math at our school). I can guess that geometry class is an environment where they are not only with peers at their level but also being challenged constantly.
     
  34. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Okay, well I think I found a good source of material that would be great for offering to higher level students as a challenge.

    My only problem now is how to offer it to them without it becoming extra work for them (it will probably have to replace homework, which brings up issues in my grading system), without it separating the class into high and low level students (do I have to offer it to everyone? should I offer it secretly?), and how will they obtain it (do I have to offer it to them every time it's available, or have a spot in the room where they can grab it if they want it, or again do I just offer it to everyone?).

    I also need to figure out how to make it appealing to these students. Some will just want to do the easier work because it's easier.
     
  35. gr3teacher

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    Find some sort of objective way to offer it that you know your high-flyers will meet and the rest won't. Give some small pre-assessment, some other criteria, etc.

    And replacing homework would be the best way to go. As far as grading goes... just replace it with the equivalent of a 100%. Since homework is meant to practice a particular skill, and you're probably determining that they don't need to practice that skill... If that doesn't work, just have a very objective rubric available.
     
  36. 2ndTimeAround

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    You could give a pretest for the material you are about to cover and then separate your class that way. You can also create two different assignments in PowerSchool and exempt one group from one assignment and the other from the other assignment. I wouldn't suggest that route though - you would want the assignments to be of equal value.

    The key is to not make one assignment more "work" than the other. Just more challenging. That is incredibly difficult to do. My own child learned in second grade that the smarter kids received more work to do. Her best friend, our next-door neighbor, only had five spelling words per week. My dd had five per day. She decided early on that she would start bombing the spelling tests so she would get easier assignments.
     

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