Saturday, June 30, 2012

Subbing Reflections: Connecting with Students

This is my last post of my mini series on my reflections of my year of substituting.  The series started here.

Connecting with the students is probably the most important thing that I learned during my time substituting.  I definitely understand the importance of connecting in a normal classroom. However, only spending one day or a few days with a group of students makes making that connection much harder.  But again the importance of that relationship is the same.

[WOW!!! I started this post yesterday to be faithful to my commitment of posting on this topic MWF..... clearly that did not happen!  I was sitting quietly watching the Olympic Trials (I LOVE anything Olympics!!) when my house was basically raided by a bunch of our friends.  It was absolutely wonderful! It just meant blogging took a very back burner.  Ok enough of an explanation.  Let's try to get back on topic here, Brittany.]

Connecting with students even as a substitute.  One of my favorite times subbing was for third grade. As soon as the students began coming into the classroom they were shouting praise because I was there.  They were thrilled to have me and because of that were all the more ready to listen and obey :) I got so many 'I love yous' and 'We're so glad you're here'; it was truly wonderful.  It lasted all day.  Even as they left I got hugs and questions of if I was coming back tomorrow.  Those are always the best days when the students truly appreciate you and want to see you again!!

Another experience that I loved was subbing for eighth graders two Fridays in a row.  The first week was a little slow.  The students were not sure whether to trust me or hate me. (aren't those the only two options for eighth graders?) Also, I had the same groups of students multiple times that day, so by half way through the day, most had decided that I was an acceptable substitute (whew!).  So some joking and story telling was beginning.  By the end of the day I got a couple 'Are you coming back?' questions that made my day.  And lucky for them, I was! So the next Friday, when they came in and saw me they were thrilled as well, just without all the verbal praise obviously.  I knew they really liked me when I started getting stories about their drama and being asked what I thought about it!! That is some high praise for a substitute.  Although eighth graders can be a challenge, it was truly a joy to work with them.

Now, for a not so good experience.  I know this bad experience was for multiple reasons, but one that I can control was the lack of connection with the students.  It was one of my first experiences subbing in high school.  The teacher I was subbing for basically runs the computer lab.  So she has everything from Rosetta Stone, to Photography, to Study Hall.  But a lot of it is student led work.  For me this meant I did almost nothing!  It was torture for a teacher who likes to be hands on and engaging with the students. I had very little to talk to the students about because I was new to the school and had no idea what they were working on.  Any conversation I started I felt like I was pulling teeth to get the students to respond.  I realize that part of this is because of the age of the students.  But part of it was my attempt to try. After a few times of only receiving a nod or a shrugged shoulder, I lost motivation to connect with the students.

All of this is to say that making a connection with the students makes the job so much easier.  If you are able to connect and have that relationship with students, they are more likely to trust you, to listen to you, and to do as you say.  Without that connection it is much harder.  The students I did not have that with did not know my name, nor did I know theirs.  They did not acknowledge me anywhere or ever seem interested in having me back.  They also did not listen well while I had them in class.

Now I know every group of students is different. But I have learned that for me I need to do whatever I can to make some sort of connection with the students in effort to make the whole day, week, year better and run more smoothly.

How do you help make connections with students?  Have you ever had a situation where you 'failed' to make that connection and could see it results because of that?

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