More Than Teaching and Learning…Providing a Compass

It has been said that a speaker must know their audience before they are able to truly connect with them. How much more so for a teacher knowing his or her audience, their students? As educators, what are we doing to not only engage our students with our teaching but also engage our students with us?

Yugansky nature reserve fire - day 1photo by ressaure on Flickr
Yugansky nature reserve fire – day 1
photo by ressaure on Flickr

It is ever too easy to view my students through the lens of my own learning experiences when I was their age. The problem with that line of thinking is that I am viewing current culture through the paradigms of the past. Dan Pink, who writes about the changing world of work, said it well: “We need to prepare kids for their future, not our past.” A great thought worth reflecting upon.

In learning about this generation of students known as Generation iY, I have found some great resources by leadership guru Tim Elmore, author of the Growing Leaders website. In a recent post, Tim shared some very worthwhile thoughts in Do Engaged Teachers Produce Better Results? I would challenge you to take a few minutes and read his post. One reason I really enjoyed this post is because I resonate with its message. As teachers, it is easy to get immersed in being an engaging teacher in a dynamic teaching environment yet miss the most powerful of all teaching tools: relationships.

Relationships are key in helping to shape and guide the heart of a student and not just the head. An engaging classroom is extremely valuable and important to me as a teacher, but my “special sauce” is being able to relate to them in and outside of class to take the learning and doing to an entirely new level.

I love technology as much as the next person, but it can only do so much for me in the teaching and learning process. And no, this comment is not coming from a 21st century Luddite mindset. It is simply acknowledging what all of us as teachers know: connections are made primarily through relationships and what better relationship to have than in a classroom between a teacher and a student. Take a few minutes and read this post. I believe it will be impacting for you as well.

Community Input: What are your thoughts about Tim’s post? Is an engaging classroom enough?

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2 thoughts on “More Than Teaching and Learning…Providing a Compass

  1. I think the relational aspect of education is paramount to reinforcing learning targets. I mean, if your objective is for the class to be able to solve quadratic equations, you don’t necessarily have to become their best friend in order for them to accomplish that goal, but if you want that target to be hit, and stay hit indefinitely – to the extent that it becomes apart of the pupil in the form of a new and better person, than the relational function of the teacher becomes more than supplemental – it becomes foundational.

    I have just started an acting class that I am teaching, and we had our first 3-hour workshops about a week ago. We spent nearly every minute of those three hours breaking down inhibitions and learning to get extremely comfortable with each other. At the end, I asked them to participate in a simple game that required team-work, and a lot of trust in those around them. I found that these people, whom three hours ago were complete strangers, had no problem working together once they understood that they could relate to the teacher and to each other.

    It seems that the concepts of ‘engaging’ and ‘relating’ pose two separate questions to the pupil. ‘Engaging’ the students answers the student’s question, “Why should I listen?” and ‘relating’ answers the question, “Why should I care?’ I think you need both to be effective in the classroom.

    I know I have had professors that related with their class very well. They could laugh with their students, talk about the latest in popular culture, and even genuinely care about what was going on in their lives, but that same teacher couldn’t engage the class with the subject at hand. Of course, the reverse has also been true in other professors I have had. Without question, the most valuable of learning experiences I have experienced have involved a professor that exhibited both strengths by not only engaging, but also relating to his/her pupils.

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