Connect the Thoughts
In the last few months, I have had several teachers from different schools contact me regarding various issues with their students. I have repeatedly heard, “What do you do when…?” And it seems that each problem has stemmed from a lack of connecting with their students. Being a teacher is not lecturing and assigning independent practice; one who does that is a facilitator. An excellent teacher leaves a positive and lasting imprint on each child in his class because he has found a way to connect with each student. Can you connect with your students without losing control of your classroom? You most certainly can; in fact, connecting with your students will help curb behavioral issues.
When connecting with your students, begin by learning about them on a personal level. What are their interests outside the classroom? What kind of toys do they play with? What are their hobbies? What is their favorite Bible story? Do they have a favorite football team? Do they enjoy reading outside of the classroom? These are all great questions that will help you get to know your students on a more personal level.
In addition, consider what family life is like for your students. Are mom and dad married? Do they attend church faithfully? Do both parents work? Now, I’m not encouraging you to turn into a Gestapo agent, or publish a blog filled with the latest and greatest about so-and-so; but I do recommend that you have an idea what your students’ home lives are like. This insight may help you understand why your students do the things they do.
Aside from their personal lives, don’t forget about their academic records. Have they been good students in the past, or do they have a history of struggling in grammar? Here is the real question: how well do you really know your students? Of course I recommend being prepared and giving a pedagogically sound lesson, but it is all for naught if it falls on deaf, unconnected ears. Students won’t connect with you, regardless of your entertainment level, unless you first show them that you care about them personally.
Secondly, keep your audience in mind during your lesson preparation. Author John Maxwell, when selecting illustrations or quotes for his books, requires that they fit into one or more of these categories:
- Humor—something that will make people laugh
- Heart—something that will captivate people’s emotions
- Hope—something that will inspire people
- Help—something that will assist people in a tangible way
Have you ever given any thought about what goes into your lessons, or do you simply follow the curriculum? You’re not a droid; you’re a human being with a personality—I hope. You’re not teaching if you are simply working from a checklist of items to cover in class. Tailor your lessons to fit your students. Use real-life illustrations from your personal life or from the happenings of your class.
Lastly, connect with your students during your presentation. There should be a purpose for each lesson that you teach, and the students should be able to know what that purpose is! They should be able to go home and share the what and why of their classes from the day; but, sadly, very few teachers can tell you the purpose of the lessons that they taught each day. During your lessons, can the students sense that you are passionate about them learning what you are teaching? Can they sense your enthusiasm for the lesson, or do they know that you want the school day to end just as quickly as they do? You’ll never connect with your students if you lack the passion to see them succeed. Now, don’t add kicking and screaming to your repertoire just to show how passionate you are about a topic; but in your own way, let your passion for teaching show through.
How can you connect with students? Get to know them, personally, beyond the classroom; keep them in mind while you are preparing your teacher-centered, not curriculum-centered, lesson; and add enthusiasm into your presentation. If you are struggling with academic and behavioral issues, it may not be as much of a communication problem as it is a connection problem. Resolve to work on your connections beginning today!
 A best-selling leadership author, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2010), 325