Hello Fellow MOOCers,
Welcome to Improving Teacher-Student Relationships. We are excited that over 800 of you have decided to join us for this course. We have spent the summer curating resources for this MOOC. It has been a wonderful intellectual journey for us. We hope it becomes a rewarding endeavor for you and helps you improve the relationships in your classroom.
While Mr. Thomas is an experienced online educator, I have been more of a traditional classroom teacher throughout my career. Last year, I became a 1:1 iPad educator, which not only helped me lower my class fail rate by 50%, but also helped me forge deeper relationships with my students.
I have used student surveys for years. We will talk more about them in Week Three. Classroom surveys have definitely helped me learn what is important to my students. Last year, working in a 1:1 environment also helped me personalize education and connect with more students. For the first five weeks of the semester, I had a student who I will call Valerie (not her real name). I knew she was very smart, but she wasn’t engaged in class, wasn’t completing her classwork, and wasn’t doing any of my homework. She was painfully shy and would not interact with me or the other students.
After a survey revealed that approximately 90 percent of my students had internet access at home, I started offering extra-credit assignments online. To my surprise, Valerie became my early adopter. She started posting to the class discussion boards even though she would never contribute to discussions in class. She began participating in virtual field trips and engaged in every online assignment that I offered. Within five weeks, her grade had gone from an F to a C and it was rising each week.
I began talking to her about comments she had made online. It was evident that she understood the World History readings and could connect the materials to modern day problems. One day, I lobbed a softball her way by asking her a question she had answered on the discussion board. One of my particularly domineering student’s head swiveled in astonishment as Valerie completed her answer. “You know how to talk and you know what you are talking about,” he gasped. I saw a little flash of a smile slide across her face and she never looked back. Although, Valerie never blossomed into what I would call an extrovert, she began actively participating in most class activities and finished the year with the highest grade in the class.
As I reflected on the year, I realized that if it weren’t for the 1:1 environment, I probably would have written Valerie off and she most likely would have failed my course. I was only able to reach her via online methods. After we built a virtual relationship, she felt comfortable enough to establish a real relationship. This school year, I was pleased to see Valerie hanging out on the quad with another student from our class. She has turned her high school life around.
Teaching can be such a rewarding profession, but it is not easy. Sometimes students make it near impossible to build positive relationships with them. I know I am frequently haunted by thoughts of the students that I have been unable to reach. We all know what life is like for high school dropouts. Educators save lives one at a time. I hope this course helps you find and connect with the Valeries in your classes. I look forward to spending the next six weeks with you.