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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Treat every student as if they are your favorite

There are few concepts that have changed my life more than the following: "treat everyone as if it was their last day on earth". You are kinder, gentler, and a better version of yourself when you live up to this mantra. A while back I decided to apply this concept to my teaching. With any application there is usually an alteration of some sort. In this case I decided that the way I would make it work would be to treat every student as if they were my favorite. With some students this was no problem, because they already were, but with most it required a personal adjustment. I realized that I did treat some students differently than others. Certainly a lot of that is deserved, based on the way they act and behave, but I had no idea how this concept would not only change my perspective but theirs as well. The tough students aren't so tough anymore, the difficulties decrease. The interesting thing is this happens because of the way I treat them, which in turn influences how they treat me and their peers. If you are treated as if you are important, you will step up your game and try to live up to it.

One of the things I wanted to come out of this was that each student would feel welcome, comfortable, and confident in my presence. I wanted them to feel as if they were as important as anyone else in the room. I think we all have been in a situation where it is apparent that we are not as important as someone else, a feeling that makes us feel second class. I even came up with steps that would serve as a checklist to make sure I was treating each student equally. Among these were learning each student's name the first day of school, at the start of each class greeting each student by name at the door, giving personal feedback and positive notes in student journals, emailing parents and expressing to them how their son/daughter was doing in my class as well as saying something positive about them. There were other steps as well that escape me at this moment. For the most part I felt that I achieved my goal. I believe that many students actually believed they were my favorite student, and if not they would at least say that felt valued in class.

Not too long ago one of my colleagues ran into a former student of ours and was catching up with her. She mentioned that she felt that she was my favorite student. This is not the first time that this particular teacher has heard such news. He commented to me that he was impressed that students feel that way in my class. The interesting point I want to make here is that because of treating each student as if they are my favorite I believe it as well. I look around the class and don't see problem students, I see potential and opportunity. It has truly changed the way I teach and interact with students.

If you are searching for a richer experience and ways to connect with students try treating all of them as if they are your favorite students, especially the tough ones. The results will not only affect them, but you as well. Sure there are some students that are a lot harder to get to than others, but it will definitely change your outlook and attitude, which you will quickly realize will change your students as well. In the end you only truly have control over yourself. It is much easier to change one person, yourself, than try to change each student. Plus what a great moment it is when you look at your class and realize you are happy to see everyone and that each student really is your favorite.