Tag Archives: relationships

Life Long Mentors

I once wrote a post about the first time a student followed me on Twitter (I had to go looking way back for that post). I ended up with my own personal policy of not following students on social media until after they graduate. I didn’t block them in any way from following me, but I did not reciprocate.

To be honest, I regret this self imposed policy now. Also I definitely didn’t hold myself to it the past few years.  I have since connected with many students and it is fun to watch them live their lives. Many have finished college, are getting married, having children, and starting their careers.

It is very popular to say how important it is for teachers to build relationships with their students. We all love the old quote, “Students won’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” But I do believe that cliche is true and have personally seen the difference caring makes in the classroom. But…..

How much do we really care if we treat each year of students as a “new batch” and forget about the old ones?

If we really care about our students than it should be for more than one year. Now I realize that there are physical limitations to the amount of caring we can do after students leave our classes. I have had thousands of students over the years and would be lying if I said that I can remember them all, especially their names 🙂

But social media is a great tool to keep up with as many students as possible. It is impossible to have the same close relationship with every student, but we can connect with many and our influence can be multiplied.

One of the groups of students that I am most strongly connected to is my first class at the wall-to-wall PBL school that I taught at. It was a new school and an exciting experience for both myself and the students. I looped with the kids so I got to teach them for two years in a row and for some of them I taught again as seniors. The length of time together and the powerful culture of our school resulted in deep bonds.

The other way that I have bonded with students is through meaningful projects. Our best projects got students excited about the world and making a difference. Students learned about who they were as a person and what mattered to them. Some of them discovered new career interests and skillsets that they didn’t even realize that they had! It was my privilege to encourage them in their unique paths as they explored their passions.

When I say that I care for students, I don’t want it to be for one year. Social media gives me the ability to be a lifelong mentor and friend to them. So for all of the negativity that can be found in these online spaces, don’t forget that they are also powerful tools to keep up with our students.

How can you structure your school and leverage social media for long term relationships with your students?


Kaechele vs. Holly

Only picture I can find of both of us :)

Only picture I can find of both of us 🙂

Our students (Andrew Holly is my team teacher) were preparing to debate the motive of the United States during our period of expansion in the Spanish American War. A couple of days before the actual debate we had a practice debate with silly topics for practice. We wanted students to get used to the format, see how much research they needed to do in preparation, and practice public speaking with no pressure. We condensed the time limits by a third to fit all of them in one day.

We used such topics as vampires vs. zombies, hotdogs vs. hamburgs, red vs. blue, Michigan vs. Michigan State, and our favorite Kaechele vs. Holly. Groups randomly drew their topics and had twenty minutes to research and prepare. For the groups that had us we gave each side five minutes to interview us and ask us anything they wanted.

We can’t take credit for this idea as we did a debate last year and the students didn’t like the lame topic we gave them and requested Kaechele vs. Holly. It was a blast. Students this year didn’t know us as well since it is the beginning of the year whereas last year we did our debate at the end of the year.

We feel like allowing students to debate us is a great experience for the whole class. It lets the class get to know us better, but most importantly it shows them that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. It helps us build relationships with our students as being approachable and a culture of fun and weirdness in our room. Being vulnerable in front of your students is always a win.