I shared my action research on student perceptions of teacher caring and the effect on motivation and engagement with my Special Populations in GATE class. My professor asked me:
How can schools ENSURE that teachers reflect on their students’ own engagement and motivation to find/use the findings from your study?
Also, if you have a moment, can you offer us a Top 5 list of activities from your study that teachers can do to benefit students?
After a great deal of thinking and reflection, I answered:
As for how schools can ensure teachers reflect, creating a culture of reflective practice is one way. They can provide sustained and supported professional development on how to implement reflective practice in classrooms. Schools need to build teacher time into the day to allow teachers opportunities to reflect and collaborate, as well as observe their colleagues in action without taking away their time for other practices, such as lesson planning. It can’t be something mandated on to teachers, but a practice is modeled at the top and trickles down. It can’t just be another thing added onto teachers’ all ready heavy loads.
Top Five Teacher Behaviors to Benefit Students: Based on My Action Research
1. Be available: Students have expressed to me that they are afraid to ask questions and make mistakes in front of teachers. They are sometimes shamed when they don’t understand. Teachers make comments like “I just explained this. Why weren’t you paying attention?” We need to be available to kids and remember that kids learn at different rates. They don’t just suddently get it. They want you to care about their academic success and show you are just there because it is a job, that you actually want them to learn. Sometimes this means making time for them before and after school. They want to learn, they just need our help. Quotes from my kids that support this:
help students understand things and don’t try to make them feel bad if they don’t understand something
they go to every single person in the classroom and asks if they have questions, because most of the time, kids are afraid to ask, and they don’t always realize they won’t understand things if they don’t go and ask questions
teacher would help me in a particular subject that I do not understand. if a teacher knows I’m struggling, then they should meet with me after school to help. made a tough subject into something that the student would understand
Caring teacher is someone who doesn’t get mad when you ask a question.
2. Differentiate: Teachers can’t just keep doing things the way they always have. If students feel cared for when their academic needs are met, in other words, when teachers help support their success, we have create and implement curriculum in our classroom that meets the needs of all of our students. Our lessons have to be engaging and relevant. Some quotes from my kids that support this
trying to make the class fun, asking the students questions to make sure they understand and not moving on until everyone knows the material
teachers do things besides worksheets. if that is all they do, they i think they did not have the effort to come up with something more interesting. i don’t learn anything by spending 90 minutes writing on paper
3. Be understanding: These are kids we are talking about here. They are going to make mistakes. They are going to forget their homework. They are going to be late to class because they left their violin in another class and they had to make a tough decision: get in trouble with my parents if I forget to bring it home or get in trouble with my teacher when I show up late. They want to know that their teacher isn’t going to yell at them every time they walk in the room or if they make a mistake. They want to know their teacher is on their side. They need a teacher who listens to their problems and their successes. They want a human connection. We cut that connection off when we are too authoratiative in our classrooms. Our kids are humans – and they aren’t fully formed yet. They are going to make mistakes, and as teachers, we have to remember just how hard it is to be that young. We can’t hold them to adult standards, and let’s be honest, even we make mistakes. So, why do we hold our kids to unrealistic expectations. My favorite is the teacher who shows up to work five minutes late every day yet yells are kids when they are late to her class. Some quotes from my kids:
understands, listens, is nice, is caring. someone that makes sure that they are not just rapidly assigning things
a caring teacher is someone who will understand you, not give you all the work in the world and respect you in general. Also, if they listen to you and not ignore. Teachers are always, always trying to bring you down. They never have anything good to say and they don’t have a way to bring you up
understanding, if something were to happen like running late to try to be as caring as they can be, such as listening to all questions and trying to be nice
4. Be respectful: I was so bummed to hear from my students how often they felt disrespected by their teachers. I think this goes hand in hand with understanding, in some ways. When we make connect to them as people. When we show we care about their lives outside of the classrooms, we make these connections. When we respect who they are as individuals, we make these connections. When we treat them like adults, but understand they are not, they feel respected.
5. Reflect and allow your self space to make mistakes (accept responsibility, apologize and move on): Teachers need to continually and constantly consider their behavior and their curriculum. This constant reflective practice will help teachers understand where they fell short in that day’s interactions with kids and in their lesson, then improve for next time. We don’t always get it right the first time. We, too, are human and have bad days.Lessons don’t always go as planned. Sometimes we woke up on the wrong side of bed and a kid just rubbed us the wrong way and we were rude. We should be willing to show our kids we are human and that we are trying to improve.