This is my responses to the reflection questions at the end of Chapter 1 - "Relationships" from the book "Innovate Inside the Box" by George Couros and Katie Novak.
1. How do you build relationships and know your students as individuals inside and outside of your classroom?
I'm not afraid to admit that this has always been one my biggest area for improvements. Going all the way back to student teaching, I can very clearly remember my cooperating teacher writing in one of my "evaluations" that I had a great grasp of the content, but had taken more time to start to develop relationships with the students than most. And as I have dived deeper into design thinking and reflected on the mindsets of design thinking, I consistently identify empathy as one of my biggest areas for improvement. Now, that's not to say that I don't think I have developed relationships with my students - I do. But I think I could do better to develop more and deeper connections with my students.
Over the past few years, I have spent the first week of class not focusing on content, but rather engaging my students in design thinking challenges and other team-building exercises to try to bust the stigma that math classes often get. However, I realize that there are many other things I could have been doing to help build relationships at the same time. Now that I teach a course that only lasts for 26 days, building relationships is even more important. Moving forward, I am planning to take inspiration from some of my awesome colleagues and friends and run some relationship-focused station activities on the first day of my rotation to get to know my students better and address some of the "housekeeping" items that need to be taken care of. By doing this, I'm hoping that I'll be able to start to develop relationships earlier in my class rotation and I will guarantee that I will have a conversation with each and every student on day #1.
2. Think of two or three teachers who influenced you as a student, either positively or negatively. How has that made an impact on you today?
When I think back to the most positive and most negative experiences I had in school, they all come down to the relationships I had with the teachers. Last week I shared the story of my 8th grade science teacher who most influenced me in education and empowered me to be the student I was. This was 100% because he cared for every single one of his students and realized that knowing his students as a person first would make them more successful, engaged, and motivated in his classroom.
I am lucky in the fact that as I write this reflection, I can't recall one teacher that I sincerely despised. I have negative memories of some teachers, and those memories always come back to teachers who made it seem that their students were annoyances and never seemed to have a smile. George's quote from chapter 1 really stuck with me: "Students are always watching: what do you want them to see?" As I reflect back to these negative experiences, I realize that I am sure I do things that make students think they are not the most important thing to me in that minute - as they should be when they are in my class. My goal for this week is to focus on making sure that students see me always focusing on them and to save the "other stuff" for other times.
3. Share a story on social media about a time that you saw an impact of "relationships" as a learner or teacher.
I started the post discussing how I feel I have struggled with building relationships to a deep level, but also acknowledging that I do know I have had an impact with creating relationships. Just last year, I had a student who hardly said a word when she walked into class each day. She had a great group of friends she worked with in class, but never said much. Throughout the year, as I got to know her more, she started to open up, so that by the end of the year she was always talking and striking up conversations. To go along with that, I saw her confidence in her math abilities rise, and she showed great improvement. She always had the ability, but she believed in herself more. This year at back to school night, she came up and we talked about her summer. I have her in class again to start this year and every day she comes to class with a big smile and a welcoming, " Hi Mr. Barge!" Seeing students break out of their shell and become more comfortable interacting with their peers, adults, and being more confident students are always the highlights of my year and remind me why I really entered education.