This has been my birthday month! I’ve been very lucky to be showered with surprises and made to feel quite special! It got me thinking about how we make our learners feel special whilst they’re in our care. How do we make sure that pupils know they’re not just statistics on a school’s “conveyor belt” and how do we help them to get the important message: “I see you, I hear you, I care about you as a person.”?
Have you read “Best of the Best: Engagement” yet? Here’s a little taster of 6 practical ways from the book that you can use to make your learners feel valued as individuals! Plus a special bonus one! You’ll find over 100 more practical strategies in “Best of the Best: Engagement”!
Practical Ways to make Learners feel Valued as Individuals
1. Create a book of positive observations about students in your class with a designated page for each learner. Pupils who crave attention often learn that they get noticed more easily when they are disengaged. Show your class that you notice the little things such as acts of kindness, periods of focused independent working, a good question, etc. This strategy fosters a sense of mutual respect between teacher and learner and you will find that pupils love to look at this book and see the observations you’ve made about them!
2. Few things are more important to learners than their outside hobbies and interests. Poll your class about their favourite activities outside of school and tell the class that you are setting yourself a challenge of showing them how their interest and hobbies apply to your subject area. Create a class display that shows your findings: Where do skateboards feature in history? How does maths underpin their preferred social media platform? How is geography significant in the television series they are currently watching? Illustrating these connections for them may be just the spark needed to draw them into their learning. Even better yet, try to integrate these connections into the units of work you are studying over the course of the year.
3. Apply the above approach to your learners’ future career aspirations. You may be able to surprise them with the ways that your subject, or even a specific unit of work, can tie into the vocations that interest them. You might wish to include some unusual career choices that may not have occurred to them; who knows what sorts of aspirations you may trigger!
4. Pick one learner each day/week who you will resolve to get to know better. Take the time to have a one-on-one discussion with this pupil and make a note of their interests, hobbies, and perhaps even the date of their birthday. Find out what they want to become when they are older, what is important to them right now, and if they offer information about their family background or important upcoming events at home, make a mental record of these things so that you can subsequently inquire about them when appropriate.
5. Ask learners to bring in one item from inside (or outside!) their home that relates in some way to the topic being studied. The link could be an obvious or a tenuous one. Display these items on a table and ask the class to peruse the objects, sharing their own theories for why each item is relevant. Learners can subsequently compare their own reasoning with the ideas of each item’s donor. At the end of a topic, when pupils can apply new learning to the display, they may well be able to point out brand new connections!
6. Emphasize to your learners what you have in common with them. What mutual interests, hopes or fears do you share with your class? Make a point of casually communicating these important points of collective experience as a natural part of relating to your class.
7. This idea comes from the wonderful Lincoln Castle Academy, and I just love it! If you identify a pupil who is lacking esteem or confidence in your lessons, discretely hand them a little card as they leave that says:
Next lesson we will be learning about: _____________________
See what you can find out about this before next lesson!…
This tactful little gesture offers the pupil the chance to “get ahead” and feel a little bit special in the next lesson. It also guards against vulnerable learners feeling “clueless” or lost and allows them to experience a sense of pride, giving them a starting point of accomplishment, rather than one of deficiency.
Now it’s over to you! How do you make pupils feel valued as individuals in your school or classroom? Please share your ideas in the comments below!