So once again I’m back with the book study of Dave Burgess’ book Teach Like a Pirate! So… Aaaargh you ready?
So chapter three is r in pirate- rapport. I will say, that reading this chapter reaffirmed what I do in my classroom in this area of teaching. Let me explain. Burgess starts out talking about how his class is so different and the reasons he doesn’t have behavioral issues that other teachers do- engagement. His students are engaged in what they are doing in his classroom. But you can’t get to that stage until your students feel comfortable with you. That’s where rapport comes in.
You need to find out their interests and use those to create lessons that grab their attention and hold it. When it comes to rapport, we need to remember that our kiddos are people, just like us. I think we forget that when we get too buried in what’s happening in our room. Our kiddos are people. We need to get to know them as people if we really want to reach them and teach them.
“Kids can tell the difference between teachers who only seem to care about them when they are sitting in the classroom, and those who see past the ‘student’ to the unique person who resides inside.” (pg. 21)
Now I will say that getting to know my kiddos takes time for me. I will be working this year to do more activities in the first week of school that gives me more direct information. But I will say this- I know a lot of teachers who follow the rule of no smiling before Christmas. Rule with an iron fist until then. I don’t follow that. I smile. I laugh. If I make a mistake or something goes wrong I say, “Oops!” and we move on. I work to get to know my students through our small group work and just watching and observing. While that has worked for me, I realize from this chapter that I need to do more direct investigations. So I’ll be combing TPT and Pinterest for great ideas. :)
Burgess then talks about how he runs his first three days of class. But before he does, he starts out with this statement:
“No content standard matters to me until I have established the safe, supportive, and positive classroom environment I need to successfully teach my students.” (pg. 22)
I’m going to say wow. I wish I could take luxury like that. This past year, I had to have my kiddos already functioning in math stations of some sort so I could start my beginning of the year math benchmarks on the third day of school! Yes you read that right. Now fortunately I had a great class that made that possible. So it was no big deal. But I’ve had other groups where that was not going to happen on this universe at all! But I did get to exercise this thought this past year with a student and I really want to share that with you (I have full permission from the parents to do so).
I had a new student coming to me after we got back from Christmas. This was at the end of January beginning of February time. While a new student is no big deal, I’ve had them before, her circumstances were definitely different. She had only been home schooled. She had never been to a public school at all. So the counselor and I thought it best to tell my kiddos ahead of time so that they would not swarm her or anything. So I did and the kiddos promised to give her space and help her as needed. Well the new girl came the following week and we got started. First week was good. I thought.
She was doing okay and seemed to be meshing well with my class. Then the weekend came and then Monday. No new girl. Okay. Tuesday. Absent again. Then when she did start coming, she was late and it was all they could do to get her to come. It had started. She panicked. While I tried hard to be diligent about her needs and remember that she was not used to school, I still, somehow, missed something. The mom was ready to pull her out as my poor kiddo was getting sick every morning and just would not come at all. The parents wanted to stay the course but worried if it was the right thing. I promptly got on the phone with them asked what they ultimately wanted for her. They said to go to school. I said then let’s find a way to make that happen. I told them my only priority for their child for the rest of this year was to get her at school every day, all day. Academics would come second.
So I sent them to the principal to see about reducing her hours. I got a visual schedule from the counselor for her and we started. She also could have a security toy in her backpack and I had 2 reliable kiddos be ready to help her as needed. Well it was a bumpy start and she was constantly coming up and asking me when she was going home (which was at our lunch time) and that she missed her mom or felt sick. I stayed patient and kept redirecting her to her schedule, her toy, or to get a trash can if she felt bad. Bottom line, we made her stay for her shortened time. Now I will say that just as we got this started, I was moving back into my house after our renovations were done (read about why here) and she did not take that real well. The school ended up calling me so I could talk to her (while on my knees scrubbing my floor) and reassure her I would be back as soon as I took care of my family. It worked. She stayed.
After a couple of weeks, she was ready to stay longer. So we slowly increased her time. After a month, we had her in all day and no longer being sick. Yes! Her grades were just fine (like we already predicted) but I wasn’t concerned about that. I made sure the counselor knew my plans and she was good with that. By the last day of school, the girl was a pro! I’m so proud of her and I know she’ll nail second grade. But bottom line, she would not have gotten there if I had not built up that rapport with her. Now she calls me her best friend and is nervous about the future. But I know she’ll be fine. Besides, her mom has my number if they need me. ;)
What Burgess describes for his first 3 days were his techniques of building rapport with his students and getting them engaged with him. After that, he was ready to teach. Just like my special girl, we all need that with our kiddos. Burgess says it best with this:
“I’m selling education…a life-altering product that can transform the human spirit and literally change the world one student at a time. Surely, such a product is worthy of any and all efforts, techniques, and methods required to successfully persuade.” (pg. 32)
I agree Mr. Burgess. I agree. So what do you do? How do you establish rapport with your kiddos? Have you had a special situation like mine that required a different approach? Please share! Oh and check out these other great posts and this chapter (just click the buttons)!