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How to Connect with Students and Be More Flexible (Teacher Series)

Susan realized that the most important aspect of teaching really is building relationships with her students. Lesson plans may change, but really seeing students as whole people with needs and lives outside of the classroom helps her to reach them and teach in an impactful way.

Listen to the podcast here:

1.What did you wish you knew before you started teaching?

That taking care of myself and developing relationships with students are the most important components to effective middle school teaching.

Story: I would spend hours creating perfect lessons and stay up late doing so. I would spend all my outside time on schoolwork and neglect exercising, socializing, sleeping, etc. I would get really cranky with my students for not appreciating the cool stuff I would create. I realized that they needed a happy teacher. When I was rested and happy and calm, I could be patient with them.Then, I learned to accept my students for who they are and not for who I wished they would be. I stopped resenting them for being who they were.

2. What are you doing well that you wish others would do?

Celebrate successes and strive to find ways to improve.

Develop strong relationships with students (I greet each student by name, send postcards when I see students doing well, eat lunch with students)

I observe and recognize when to change an activity, depending on mood/abilities of students(are they restless? Can they handle this activity?)

Celebrate and work with paraeducators. Give a shoutout. Ask for feedback. Treat them with respect. Communicate expectations. Problem-solve together.

3. Ways you make a difference in the classroom:

I care about kids’ social and emotional well-being and observe each child (are they sad, tired, etc). Do they need to talk with someone or journal? Many a time we walk and talk with students in the hallway to listen to them and help them process. I think every elementary and middle school classroom should have at least two adults in the classroom for this very reason.

4. Favorite books:

Never Work Harder Than Your Students by Robyn Jackson (start where your students are and know where they are going)

Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov (pacing instruction, literacy skills,setting high academic and behavior expectations, establishing trust and character, etc).

Promoting Health and Emotional Well-Being in Your Classroom by Randy and Tana Page (life skills, drugs, stress reduction, mental health)

Online Class: 40 hour Teacher Workweek by Angela Watson (great yearlong class for applying specific tricks and strategies to be a more efficient teacher)-Tips (she recommends scheduling how you will use your plan time, batch prepping (worksheets), how to streamline communication with parents (office hours), teach students how to pass back papers, etc.

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