Managing, Motivating, and Building Relationships With (and Sometimes Reminding Yourself You Actually Like) Your Students

The heart of teaching is the interactions between you and the kids. These are the moments you pictured when you imagined yourself in this career! Although. . . maybe in your imaginary classroom, the kids were making eye contact with you instead of looking at their phones? And maybe they were excited about, or at least turned in their assignments? Certainly, in this imaginary classroom of yours, you never felt like you were talking under water so that nobody could even hear you, and you never kinda-sorta hoped that a specific student would be absent.

Certainly you did not feel like this:

I recently assigned a project with specific requirements and a rubric. My kids worked so hard and were incredibly proud of their products. They made amazing things, but did not complete the written part of the project. Thus, many of them received very low grades, which made them quite discouraged. I’ve offered them the opportunity to make corrections, but I fear this is going to destroy their motivation to do great work for me. How do I combat this?

Or this:

How do I get my students to actually stop talking while I’m talking? I’ve tried different methods of getting their attention but after a few days/weeks they start to ignore it. The class is just so loud, and it ruins my mood and I feel bad that I can’t give the next class my best.

Or this:

Everything I do, they have a comeback like, “Why do we have to do this?” “Can we please do something else?” “Can we play a game?” My normal answer is, “We’re going to do what I planned for the day,” which sometimes works, but then I start getting back talk. It’s exhausting me, and sometimes I just want to give in because I’m so sick of all of the questions.

You know the basic teaching advice that applies in these situations. 

Consistency. Positive reinforcement. Strong routines, engaging lessons, high expectations! In fact, you’ve heard all this advice so often that it feels mildly insulting, at this point, to hear it repeated to you again like some type of revelation that would solve your current classroom difficulties.

And, it’s not that this advice is wrong, exactly.

It’s more that it’s all easier said than done, more complicated than it sounds, and sometimes has hidden pitfalls. Teaching is a nonstop series of on-the-spot judgment calls, and sometimes you find yourself weighing two pieces of conflicting advice that both apply but that would point to very different actions on your part. Sometimes it feels like just yelling would be a handy shortcut, but then you’d have to yell louder than you yelled last time, which you’re not sure you can top at this point. Besides, what if that doesn’t work this time?

Here is what a session of See Me After Class Office Hours can offer:

It would be insincere to claim that one Zoom session or phone call will turn all of your students into enthusiastic scholars. But a single session of Office Hours might be able to help you with the following:

Tailored troubleshooting

Cutting through the clichés is just the beginning. Before you can make it work, you need to figure out whether and how this seemingly solid teaching advice applies in your classroom. To do that, you need to be able to share the specific details of your situation, as well as all the things you’ve already tried, so you’re not hearing recommendations that have already led to a dead end. After booking a session, you can email me to describe your problem in as much detail as you’d like so we can start from your actual starting point.

Planning for a rules-and-routines reset

You can reset your classroom. But you can’t walk in every Monday and announce that “things are about to change in room 302!” If you’re planning a classroom overhaul, it can be helpful to talk through your new plan—and how you’re going to introduce it to a class full of skeptical students.

Confidential collaboration

It can be hard to turn to colleagues when your students are sapping your confidence. You may be worried about damaging your reputation within the school, or hearing the dreaded, “Well, that would never happen in my class.” Or you may worry that the person you’re talking to has a split loyalty or conflicting agenda. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who doesn’t work for your school district, answer to your principal, or eat lunch in your teachers’ lounge.

How can you book a session of See Me After Class Office Hours?

Simply choose one of the options below and click the “Book Me” button to select an available time from the calendar. If you experience any technical difficulties, you can also try this direct link to the booking page.