A Bad Mix
This is important to remember as we start getting stressed about testing and we pass that stress to our students. If we don’t have a good relationship with a particular student, adding that stress into the mix can do more harm than good. It turns into us hounding students about the importance of x, y, z and them pushing us further and further away. Some students deal with this stress by not turning in work, blowing off tutorials, or just generally trying to show us they don’t care about our class.
A typical teacher reaction is to say, ‘Well, if they don’t want to do the work, I can’t make them’ or ‘I need to focus on the students who care about doing well in my class.’ We can take the tough love route of putting all of the onus on the student to reach out for help and get the work done.
I get it. I’ve done it. And I regret it.
The impact of rebelling through performance
An adolescent has only a cursory awareness of how failing a class will impact them down the line. But especially for at-risk students, if they have to repeat a grade, their chances of dropping out of high school go up significantly. If they fail two grades before they enter high school, we’re practically walking them to the exit. Once in high school, any failed classes are a major hit to their GPA and chances of getting into college. So if they are performing poorly partly because they don’t like us and want to express their frustration, we need to do everything we can to stop it.
Our relationships with our students are our responsibility.
I’m not saying we’re solely responsible for a student’s performance and behavior. But our relationships with our students are our responsibility. And prioritizing those strong relationships yields huge dividends.
If our students care about us, they’ll care about our class. And if they care about the class, they’re much more likely to be successful because they’ll be putting effort and energy into the work.
It may take some time and a shift in our priorities, but for those students who we reach and are able to motivate to work hard and invest themselves in our class, it can make all the difference.
Take a look at Building Relationships with All Students for ideas on how to connect with individual students.
This post was originally published on February 4, 2015.