Why Getting to Know Your Students Is Important

Once, this semester, my principal told me that I have a student who will work for me and not for anyone else. What’s interesting is that I had a few confrontations with this student at the beginning of the semester, that boiled down to me telling him that while I will treat him with respect because I have a job to do, he still has to earn my respect and the privilege to change seats (which was the question at hand). I bring this up because one of his other teachers came into my classroom this morning talking about the student, who happened to be in the room at the time. She went on about how he wouldn’t do anything for her and had bad grades across the board, and she’s recommending him for summer school. That’s all fine and dandy, I like the kid. I’m sure he’s not going to be thrilled that he gets to spend another summer with me, but at least I got him to work for me.

How did I do this, you might ask?

Easy. I listened to what he said to me and found a book that matched his interests and then listened to him when he talked about the book. Therefore, he’ll make an effort to learn what I’m trying to teach him.

I thought about this because I got another student I was trying to reach. He’s a self-professed player, who’s smooth talking, but really didn’t like to do what he was asked. I gave him Homeboyz by Alan Lawrence Sitomer, and he liked it, but lost it. Then I gave him Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Pena which he skimmed through without reading too much in depth. For book groups, he’s reading That Was Then, This Is Now by S. E. Hinton. When he came in today I told him that my favorite line from the book was “If you have two friends in your lifetime, you’re lucky. If you have one good friend, you’re more than lucky” (49). Before I could finish reading the quote, though, he’d finished it for me.

Later, he tells me that he’s never read a book all the way through. He liked The Outsiders, but never finished it either. Right now he’s feeling pretty proud of himself. And I’m feeling pretty proud of him.

Hinton, S.E. (1971). That Was Then, This Is Now. New York: Speak.

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