Kathy Cassidy with a student
Kathy Cassidy with a student

This afternoon I received an email from one of my students of the typical “I am really embarrassed to ask you and this is probably a dumb question” type.

You know the type of question, these tend to appear sometime after the first exams when students feel stressed about their marks and are looking for guidance on how to move forward.

This time of the semester is also when students have that awkward feeling of “it is too late to say I have no clue about your course, have not read the book nor installed the software on my laptop that I need”, “the teacher is going to explode if I tell her/him that, so I better just hide and hope the problem goes away”.

I could rant on-and-on (I have pretty much every semester of teaching) about this with my colleagues of how the students just need to kick it into gear and get moving forward.

Or, I could take another point of view and decide to be the one to engage the students instead of vice-versa.  Strange? Have I finally gone off the deep end or fallen off my rocking chair?

I don’t think so and this is why I think we as teachers need to be more proactive in the teacher student relationship.

  1. I am not afraid or intimidated as a teacher.  It is true these kids hold my 6th Grade Student Teacher Basketballpossible future in their hands when it comes time to do teaching evaluations sometime next month but that does not really scare me.  I have lasted this long and my evaluations tend to be good (but not off the scale).
  2. The students on the other hand feel that we as teachers have an enormous amount of power to affect them (in a negative way with grades).  Add to this the fear of ridicule in the classroom in front of peers and we have the recipe for students to just hide in the shadows.

So what to do? I have a few ideas that I want to try this semester that are low cost (in time invested) that I think should pay dividends.  I don’t want to put all my cards on the table yet since I am still not sure of the details but all of the ideas pretty much are defined by me directly engaging the student to get that all important “first contact” in place.

Student and Teacher
Student and Teacher

Flipping my classroom (or at least moving towards a flipped classroom) is helping me engage with more students one-on-one in the classroom sessions but it really is hard to engage all of my 20-30 students in each class on a given day. Some of them are definitely doing a good job of shying away or hiding and I need to break that cycle.

Teachers: what are you doing to break the ice with your students?

Students: feel free to add your comments here as well.

Click photos for original sources, all are Creative Commons licensed.

6 thoughts on “Engage Your Students

  1. This are great ideas, i wish you had them when I was your student jeje, I think that a good student-professor relationship is essential to increase results in the learning process but it has to be a point between friendship and fear, I’ve seen many partners afraid of a professor and what he can to to him (respect to his grades) and some others that consider the professor as one of them (I don’t think of this as a bad thing, only when the student losses respect for the teacher).
    I really hope many other professors follow your initiative not only by copying your ideas but to thinking in other ways of creating a better student-teacher relationship.

  2. Good reflection Ken. I agree with you on the fact that having a large group of students makes it difficult for us to reach everyone on the one-on-one bases. But if we engage in an “get to know each other” activity the first day of classes, that process of reaching out to the ones that shy away is not that difficult once you know their individual backgrounds.
    ¡Saludos!

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