Building relationships with students
I don't want to see us all try the experiment with the nails and cinderblocks, but I would love for us all to get the real messages here: 1) One size does not fit all and 2) Teachers need to take the time to understand what is going on with their students (develop relationships). When we do, we come to understand why they are not asking questions in class, or why they are acting out (begging for someone's attention), or why the homework did not get done last night.
Yesterday, I called a student to see me. I asked him if he would participate in a survey. He agreed, took the envelope, but was not ready to leave my office. Without any prompting at all, this young man proceeded to tell me so much about himself. He wanted me to know that he was studying hard, making sure his mom continues to be proud of him. He talked about losing his stepfather a few months ago, and how much this has hurt. He misses watching Sunday afternoon sports on TV with his dad. He misses the good advice and example of manhood seen in his dad. He spoke about always wanting to do the right thing for his mother; helping around the house and looking out for his 3 younger siblings. He said that some of his grades fell last semester because his goal was to help mom more. Now, because his grades fell, he has lost a lot of privileges such as TV in his room, gaming and friends over for visits. He spoke of trying to strike a balance---get good grades and still help mom with the house and the other children. This student, we'll call him Jason, wants to attend college, though not yet sure what he'll study. He simply said, "I want to do great things with my life. I know I have to be something great!"
How much time did this take? About 10 minutes, but I would have listened to him so much longer if he had just had the time!
If I were his teacher I would, as a result of this opportunity, be better prepared to have conversations with Jason. I would know more about what motivates him and why he wants to learn. I would begin to think differently with regard to teaching him, because now, teaching Jason would be more focused and caring, more student centered.