Teach Like a Pirate: R is for Rapport

I was looking forward to reading this particular section because I already had confidence in the rapport that I have built with students both current and past. In my current position, I am rarely in the classroom, except once a week at the elementary school. At the middle school, I only end up in the classroom if the teacher requests a co-teacher for a lesson I’ve
helped develop or to provide backup support for technology. In order to build rapport with my students as a TIS, I have done a few things.

When I first began at both of my schools, my students were completely unfamiliar with me. They didn’t always see me, and when they did, it usually wasn’t for long. Before the year was out last year, I had decided to go with a uniform approach to how I dressed. I wanted mornings to be easy on me, and it also helped me stand out. My polos are designed in school colors- green with yellow writing for the elementary school and orange with black writing for the middle school. Students soon learned to recognize me by my shirt because I was consistent. Did it build rapport? No, but it made me stand out when I otherwise blended in.

Clubs have been one of my biggest successes, and the easiest way for me to spend time with students outside of the classroom. Whether it’s one of my coding clubs, my speed stacking club, or my Lego League group, I spend extra time with my students. During this time we’ll discuss things going on in students’ lives and their interests. Sometimes it’s all about helping them work through a frustration with something they are completing in club. Not every day is a good day of course, but these students feel comfortable with me.

Another of my successes has been trying to follow along with some of the interests of students, or at least keeping abreast. This is easier said than done, and I do best with it when it comes to elementary students. The universal interest that I’ve found so far is Minecraft. I got into it two years ago with the hopes of connecting with an upcoming 4th grade class. I knew that a huge majority of the students were into the game, and I had always wanted to see what it was about. Now, two years later, I find myself hooked on the game and the creative aspect of it. I wear one of the Minecraft Gamebands nearly every day, and if students see it, they tend to ask me about it. From there, we discuss their interests in the game and what they like to do. For example, a student saw it today and asked “Do you play Minecraft Story Mode?” I was able to reply yes and the student then told me all about their adventures completing episode 1.

My final success I feel has to do with my penchant for engaging in being silly or crazy to get my point across in a lesson. I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself if it means I can engage my students better. My one 4th grade class never forgot the day I dressed up for Wacky Wednesday and called myself Riley McDonald. I talked in a funny voice, and
taught class that way the entire day. I’ve done the rock cycle as a Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers theme. I’ve tossed things in class, slammed things down with a grin, and even made a mess to get my message across. Oh, and who could forget the Donkey “That’s a nice number” phrase for rounding numbers, with a cutout of Donkey from Shrek on a stick?

One of the big sections in this chapter is the description of the first three days in Dave’s classroom. I really enjoyed this section, and the suggestions he gave. The biggest problem I see is that it would be hard to do those things in an elementary classroom, or a room where the students are not switching classes. It works best in a room that is only there for a period of time, perhaps 45 minutes. It wouldn’t be as hard in a school where students change classes on a block schedule, but for elementary, the task becomes more challenging. In fact, I’m not even sure off the top of my head how I would make the first few days work in an elementary classroom. Ideas, anyone? Contribute if you do.

Of his first 3 days set of plans, day 3 seems to be the most critical of them all. He sets up day 3 to be a sales pitch of sorts to sell his class on the idea that his is different and set up to be different than other classes that the students have had before. I believe that in some fashion a majority of teachers do attempt to do this, but perhaps not with as much fervor
and energy as Dave does. Perhaps this is where the change needs to be. If a teacher isn’t excited to be in their own classroom in front of their students, then the students are going to pick up on that energy, whether it’s said or not. No, a teacher cannot be excited every single day, but if a student is saying “Mr. So-and-So’s class is always so boring. He doesn’t want to be here!” Then there’s an issue.

Even though I’m not a classroom teacher, I do make it a point to have positive interactions with students. They don’t often see me unless there’s an issue with technology so I rarely get the chance to build any kind of strong rapport with students. With that in mind, I do need to watch what I do when I do interact with students. Sometimes I only have those few
moments with that student to make an impact. I want to be seen as someone that students feel they can easily ask about technology issues, or talk to. For me, this makes it easier when it comes to suggesting how they can use a tool differently, or solutions to try in the future. I think I do a pretty good job of this right now, as it’s in my nature, but I do need to be mindful of it in the future. I feel that it can only continue help me to build better relationships.

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