I kind of cringe these days when I bring up tracking moments of genuine connection (MGCs) during a professional development.
But why, Dave? It's not cringey! Have some confidence, man!
Wow. Thank you. Thank you for that aggressively kind support.
But MGCs are SO obvious. I mean, is the following really rocket science?
“All right, here's the strategy: for each one of your students, take 30ish seconds on a regular basis and try to make them feel valued, known, or respected, both as people and as students.”
So basic. Every teacher in the world knows this.
The trouble is that most teachers in the world overlook one critical word in the strategy: EACH. That word EACH is where the Credibility ground game is won or lost. And that word EACH is the one part of the MGCs that even the best of us fail at when we don't keep track of who we connect with.
So who do we miss when we don't keep track? Well first, let's consider the students most of us instinctively make an effort to connect with:
- Students who are super outgoing or easy to talk to. These students don't take effort to connect with, really. They come to us. Or they are outlandishly pleasant. Or they have a lot to say about their new cat.
- Students who we're most concerned about, behaviorally or academically. Because we're smart, we're often quick to work on building relational capital with students that show up on our teacher radar.
So who does that leave out?
- Students who seem standoffish
- Students who are shy
- Students that kind of glower
- Students that present an affect that seems to say, “Hey, teacher — leave me alone! I'm not interested in you.”
These students, when we leave MGCs up to instinct, receive fewer MGCs than those two student groups I listed first. And as a result, we accidentally create a kind of a self-perpetuating imbalance in the classroom.
None of us are trying to produce this cycle. But all of us contribute to it when we don't intentionally track moments of genuine connection.
How to keep track, very simply
- Copy/paste all of your students' names on a single sheet of paper. (Here's a copy of a template that I use.)
- Print ten copies of the doggone thing!
- Put 'em on a clipboard.
- And try to make at least one student feel valued, known, or respected during the following chunks of your class period:
- As they are walking in.
- As they are working independently on something.
- As they are packing up and leaving.
- Make a little check mark next to each student you do this with.
- Once you've checked next to every student's name — and not sooner! — start a new page.
These brief attempts at genuine connection DO NOT need to be perfect (mine are often awkward). They just need to be consistent and genuine. Don't disrupt your lesson for them. Don't turn them into something complex.
Just print the doggone paper and keep track of who you connect with. It'll help develop Credibility and Belonging. And sometimes, it'll even be fun. 🙂