When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.
What you will find in this series of articles is that ALL the teachers we will highlight utilize three specific strategies in their classrooms to ensure student success. And thus, the title “The Trifecta of a Successful Classroom” was born. The Trifecta is comprised of these strategies: removing the fear of failure within their classrooms, using appropriate classroom management, and establishing positive relationships with their students and peers. Although many of the examples to be discussed will overlap across all three categories, each is as important individually as they are together.
Part 3 – Positive Relationships with Students
To briefly recap the last segment, we discussed Effective Classroom Management strategies and how those strategies have positively impacted the students. Let’s look at our final piece of the Trifecta, Positive Relationships with Students.
Building and sustaining positive relationships with your students is as critical to the classroom environment as any of the other elements in the trifecta. Some would argue that it is the most important aspect of teaching and can help deter many potential negative situations that can arise on a daily basis.
So, how do we define what positive relationships look like in action? One key element of positive relationships can be seen in how the teachers interact with their students each day. Ms. James and Mr. Clark at Klein Cain thrive off their student engagement and interaction. As students enter the room each day, they take the time to walk around to each individual student and greet them on a personal level. Some students receive a high five, fist bump, or handshake, while other students receive a hug. Both teachers take the time to have personal conversations with each student and use this time to congratulate them on achievements not only from class but in the student’s life. At times, some students just want to talk about something that they find important, and this is always met with genuine enthusiasm and encouragement. Other times when Mr. Clark or Ms. James identify that a student is really struggling for the day, they utilize each other’s defined relationships with particular students to have deeper conversations and inspire them to focus on a goal. They will then track the progress of the student’s improvement and reward them with praise and affirmation of their success. At times, they find that they need to make particular agreements with students that help them meet their personal needs first and their classroom needs second. Taking the time to make agreements with students who struggle with having their daily needs met has shown these particular students how much both teachers value them and that they recognize it contributes to their ability to be successful.
Another wonderful example of positive relationships with students is the very nurturing bond that Ms. Hatcher and Ms. Richardson have with their 6th grade students at Wunderlich Intermediate. The students know that they can always go to both of their teachers for assistance and ask questions. At times, each teacher will invite any student into any group they may be helping without the student having to worry about being turned away or told to wait their turn. If the question the student has is different from the topic of discussion at that table, you will see them embrace the student and provide them comfort through proximity control while they wait their turn for assistance.
Ms. Endsley and Ms. Degutis at Klein Oak HS display positive relationships each day through their individual interactions with each student. They make a point to address each student by name and sit with them and have conversations about learning and life outside the classroom. The students thrive off of their transparency and appropriate humor that is never belittling. This is also the same thing we saw Ms. Shiflet and Ms. Chuckran do with their students at Klein Collins. Every student feels free to express their thoughts and ideas on their own level. They are very transparent and make sure all their students have a voice in the daily routines. The classroom is theirs, and the atmosphere is driven by the feeling of being a family. We asked a student what he liked about his teachers, and he responded that he likes his teachers because of how invested they are in the class. They are very friendly and always willing to help everyone. They take the time to build relationships. That just about sums it up for all these wonderful teachers. All the students we asked told us very similar things. Students appreciate when they have a voice and are made to feel as though they are part of the learning process. Another example of this is how Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Craft at Klein Collins meet their students where they are during learning moments. You may walk into their room at any point and find them doing hands-on instruction. On one occasion, we entered and were unable to locate Ms. Craft. A few minutes later she appeared out of nowhere from inside the room. It just so happened that she was sitting on the floor helping students who needed hands-on assistance with their project they were building. Neither teacher shies away from opportunities to teach in a hands-on manner. Ms. Beno and Ms. Allred were so invested in their plans that they, too, were wearing their pajamas and had the room set up for a Spa day. They had taken the time to create an atmosphere that was relaxing and enriching at the same time. From elementary to high school, we saw teachers invested in their ideas and classroom environment who made learning feel a little less like teacher-led learning and more like cooperative opportunities for learning together.
Positive relationships with students and our peers can be one of the most beneficial tools in our educator toolkit. As teachers, we know very well that we will go above and beyond for our coworkers, bosses, parents, etc. that we have a great relationship with, and we should always remember that our students are no different.
Throughout the past few weeks, we have provided examples of simple but amazing things that have happened in Klein ISD classrooms. Each example has provided a critical element in the Trifecta; some have even been examples of all these elements combined! Much like the image of the three rings throughout this series, each part is linked to the other two. Where one part exists, it is critical that the others exist also. A successful plan makes learning enjoyable for both students and teachers. It allows for positive growth and diminishes the negativity or stigma that may be related to some subjects or learning in general for some students. We truly appreciate all the teachers who allowed us to come into their classrooms to be able to provide these examples, and we appreciate you all reading and learning from them.
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About Klein ISD
Klein ISD is a school district in Klein, Texas located in northwestern Harris County. The district spans approximately 87.5 square miles and serves more than 54,000 students in one early childhood and pre-kindergarten center, one high school program of choice, 31 elementary schools, 10 intermediate campuses, and 5 high schools.
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