Show your students you give a damn (and help them with their learning)

By November 16, 2013 6 Comments


The secret of teaching success isn’t mythical. It isn’t even that hard to work out. Watch any amazing teacher in their classroom and it is clear. The key to teaching success is to care about your learners and build relationships with them. For them to know that you really give a damn about them, their learning and how well they do. If you want your kids to perform really well for you they have to know you care, so here are some ways that you can show them this care and improve their learning.

If you say you will do something then do it. Conversely, don’t promise things that you don’t have the power or time to deliver. Many of our learners are constantly let down by adults. They need you to be true to your word. This can be really small things, like if you promise a prize for a competition or quiz then you need to deliver. Students need to know that when you say something you will do what you have said. This can have great benefits for behaviour management in your classroom. If you are consistent about boundaries, this will have massive pay off not only in terms of improved behaviour, but also in building relationships of trust with your class.

We are all busy, but take the time to make feedback for students meaningful. Students need homework marked and returned promptly so that their efforts, (and your marking) has some meaning to them. Help them to reflect on their work. If you know a student has an issue such as dyslexia then think about recording audio feedback – a tool I use almost religiously for my feedback now is Explain Everything – more on this in a post soon. Each student is an individual and feedback should reflect their uniqueness. A generic tick or well done comment is not good enough. Show them you care by involving them in the process of making progress. This will impact on their engagement with the next learning opportunity.

Magpieing ideas from other teachers is brilliant, but if you want the learners to really excel in their learning make sure you adapt the ideas specifically for them. Going to Teachmeets or reading blogs to get ideas to use in your classroom is great, but unless you own those ideas for yourself – you’re likely to fail. Other teachers have amazing ideas, but you need to have the confidence and capability to apply them to your own classroom. You need to really know your learners to be able to adapt an idea, and it shows them you care in taking the time to do this, rather than just trying out something you saw without tweaking it just for them.

Be that teacher who goes the extra mile. Be available for meetings with parents and social workers. Organise trips. Run lunchtime clubs. Walk the walk as well as talk the talk. You need to put in a lot of extra time and effort, to really have the impact that you would like to have in your school. The reward here is certainly not going to be free evenings, but your learners will respect and respond to your efforts. They will go the extra mile in return for you in return.

In your lessons think about differentiation. Like really think hard. I don’t mean putting a token extension activity on the end of a task, I mean really think about how are you going to push each and every one of their kids to perform to their full potential. So many of our learners come from homes where education is not valued. We need to ensure that we don’t teach resource focused lessons, that technology is used to facilitate learning not just utilised as a gimmick, and that each individual knows the value of what they are doing. Learning should be its own reward, and to that end we need to plan meaningful teaching activities that cater for the needs of each student. This is really hard to do. It takes many years of practice to feel confident in this regard. Teachers have to be experts about a variety of learning needs, as well as personality types to be able to plan a really inclusive lesson that can allow children of differing ability to make progress. By planning and building in really thoughtful differentiation, you are showing your students the greatest of care, as you have considered their learning needs as an individual. As you may well know, teachers plateau after their first three years of teaching, yet it takes ten years in the career to be considered expert – it takes stickability. Watch the video below from TLAB 13 and Alistair Smith.


The final way you can show your learners care is to care for yourself. Personally you need to find a work/life balance, and make sure you de-stress.  You are less likely then to have absence through illness or stress, and actually being there in the classroom everyday, being reliable is of massive importance to your learners. You can also care for yourself by being the best teacher you can be. This might mean writing blog posts and reflecting on your practice and sharing ideas, or it might mean finding your own CPD if your school is not developing you professionally. You know the steps you have to take to nurture your strengths and develop your weaknesses. You are showing great care for your learners if you take the time to do this.

In many ways showing care is about taking time to do the things we all know we should do everyday. The pace at school can be fast, and we all struggle with workload and time scales. However, make sure that every now and again you step back from the busyness and take stock of what you have achieved. Try and find a few seconds to stop and look around at your class or the thing you’ve worked so hard at to say to yourself, ‘I did that’, ‘That’s happening because of me’. I used to do that at the Teachmeets I used to do at Clevedon. Whilst plaudits from others are nice, there’s a lot to be said for us (and for our students) in being satisfied with our own efforts and being able to recognise our own achievements and in a job well done. Many of us are our own harshest critics, and we should respect our own efforts like we do the efforts of our learners.

Have a great weekend.


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