I recently informally interviewed a 7th grade girl for another class that I am enrolled in about her thoughts on what kind of teaching she had felt was productive for her and what kind seemed detrimental.
She started by telling me that last year she had a teacher who made her feel as though she was stupid in front of her entire class when she answered a question wrong when called on. She said the teacher told her to pay attention during class so she would know what was begin talked about but she told me that she had been listening, she was just confused and didn’t understand what was being talked about. It’s true the teacher may not have known that and didn’t think for a second how a response like that to a student in front of the entire class could be a detriment, but it was.
The student then went on to tell me that the teacher that she felt was the best was actually a mentor who works in one of her classes every single day. She says when she speaks to him he always asks her about her day and how things are going for her. One day she told him something she was doing over the weekend and the following week he came back and asked how it went. She said she always asked him for help when she was confused in class because she said she knew he cared about her and wouldn’t make her feel dumb like the teacher she had the year before.
She went on to tell me that she struggles in her science class this year because the teacher she had last year who made her feel stupid was her science teacher and she never wanted to ask for help after that in fear that she would be made to feel stupid. That teacher, whether they knew it or not changed the way this student looks at science because of one comment.
This interview was eye-opening for me because it reminded me that if we want our students to succeed the most then we need to build relationships with them first. Students want to learn from people who care about them and are invested in their successes. Yes, as teachers we have certain things we are required to teach our students but we need to make sure that we don’t only focus on that. If we show that we care about our students and are invested in their learning then they will be more willing to listen to us, learn from us, and ask for help when they are confused or lost.