Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Teaching is About Relationships

Today I was online with my students for about 90 minutes of a planned 55 minute class. One of my students joined the Google Meet session early and we chatted for a while. We talked mostly about how things were different learning online. I also had students stay after the scheduled end of class for extra help and we also talked about online learning for a while.

For me, as for I suspect most teachers, the best part of the job is building relationships with students. That is harder when teaching online. There are few chats between classes, before and after school, or during lunch room supervision. Many teachers I have heard from talk about how they are glad they got to establish relationships with the students they teach before we went to emergency remote teaching.

One of my students this morning said that she was worried about incoming freshmen if school starts online. They will not have the relationships that help adjust to a new school. They will also not have the technology experience that current students had even before we moved online.

Students tell me these out of class chats are important to them. From my observations, students who establish a good relationship with even one teacher are happier and more successful in school. I wonder how we can develop those relationships if school stays online.

My students tell me that they would rather be in the physical building. They miss their friends but they also recognize that they learn better in a physical classroom than online. Sure it is nice to be able to eat in class, have a restroom close at hand, and be able to do things at home without the travel to and from school but that’s not enough.

One student told me today that she misses the atmosphere of school. There is a feeling in the building that helps her feel comfortable and ready to learn. That is the sort of intangible that often gets overlooked during discussions of moving education online. Yes, it is less expensive. No doubt about it. But we lose so much. Students know this. They may not all have known this before but they are seeing things through a different lens today. So are teachers. I hope parents see it as well.

I’ve had almost prefect attendance in my online classes. The reasons for that are many, varied, and complicated but I believe that relationships have had a huge influence. Relationships between students and teachers and relationships with the culture of the school have all played a part. Plus I have really amazing people for students. I’m a lucky guy.

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