Posts tagged teachers
Where did it all go? Thoughts about student memory and retention

Have you ever taught something and your class really seemed to get it, only to revisit the concept a short while later, and it’s as if they never heard of it? Better yet, have you patted yourself on the back after your students aced an exam only for you to ask a related question two days later and get back a class full of blank stares? It’s almost as if their minds were one big etch-a-sketch that had once memorized lots of information before being wiped clean.

If you’re like me, you’ve had that experience more than once. And we all know how it feels. It can be one of the most frustrating experiences for a teacher, seemingly invalidating all of the hard work — in terms of preparation, content delivery and reinforcement — of the past many weeks. Why does this happen and what can teachers do to ensure that students properly process and retain key information?

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Connecting with parents

Many teachers use the relationships and the trust that they engender with parents to lay the foundation for student success. Unfortunately, in my years as a teacher and a principal, I too often observed an unhealthy dynamic between teachers and parents. Such teachers commonly found parents to be people that they needed to “deal with.” They viewed them as nuisances, if not worse. They wanted parents to stay out of their way and let them do their thing. After all, they were the experts.

Parents, for their part, can be quick to get upset with teachers for such things as rules, policies, perceived negative attitudes towards their child and, of course, poor student performance.

The sad reality is that the ones who suffer most from this tension are children. They need to feel the security of the rapport between school and home, rather than to be confused by an undercurrent of disharmony. As the African proverb states, “when two elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets trampled.”

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Connecting with our students

As teachers, we know that there is more to our jobs than sharing content and enhancing student skills. We understand intuitively that in order to fully reach our students we need to connect with them and create the right atmosphere for learning. The research of Dr. John Hattie confirmed this when concluding that the most effective way to improve education was to raise the quality of pupil-teacher interactions.

Below is a list of strategies that can help you establish healthy, meaningful relationships with your students and interact in a manner that is healthy and fulfilling.

  • Set the proper tone. Find ways with which to positively engage students from the outset. Greet them as they enter the room with a “good morning” and a high-five. Smile when you see them and let them know that you’re happy that they’re there. Convey the message that you expect a great day from them and anticipate their success.
  • Create a healthy learning environment. One of the most powerful educational quotes that I have ever read has nothing to do with teaching. The author, former teacher and child psychologist Dr. Haim Ginott, wrote about the central role that teachers play in making the classroom’s “weather.”
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