Whether talking in-person or virtually, even small conversations play an important role in creating the connections students need. But it can be challenging to carve out time in our busy schedules to focus on building these relationships.
As educators, we must make the time to ensure that every student feels seen and heard. All of us need a support system, and this is especially important for students in their teenage years. Yet, many felt alone over the past couple of years because of pandemic-induced isolation. That isn’t OK, and studies have already shown the traumatic impact the loneliness epidemic is having on students across the country.
At Classical Academy High School near San Diego, we’ve spent the past few years ensuring that every student has an educator in their corner. It’s become clear that using technology with a purpose is impactful and provides students more access to their teachers.
The current generation of students has grown up connecting with friends via video games and texting tools. That’s why we strive to meet them where they are at by giving them the ability to speak with us in the ways that work best for them.
We give our students the ability to connect with us through reflection tools like Along, an online teacher-connection builder. We provide them weekly one-on-one mentoring with a trusted adult at school through the Summit Learning program. We’ve even given them the ability to speak with us through video games, and the results have been amazing. Not only are we connecting more with our students, we’re seeing them drive the conversations!
This focus on the teacher-student connection and the additional access allotted by digital tools means that we get to spend more meaningful time with our students. We are not alone in seeing this impact. A recent national survey of educators found that teachers who use digital tools to connect are more comfortable differentiating instruction and getting to know their students.
In the survey, 70 percent of educators said that effective use of technology is important for students’ future success. We have also found that teachers who use technology actually spend more one-on-one time with their students, and strengthen their bonds through open and honest communication.
One of the most important things I’ve observed over my many years as an educator is that students need to know you are there for them. It is our job to make sure they are building life skills, not only taking tests. To teach them these real-world skills and habits, we need to get to know their strengths and areas for improvement. We need to continue to search and try out different approaches that make them feel comfortable speaking with us, whether they’re thriving or struggling.
Students tell us that they find value, and feel valued, when they have the opportunity to get to know us on another level. They start to understand that their teachers and principals are people, just like them. At the same time, we are showing them that somebody believes in them.
Our team values the technology that helps make building relationships easier and accessible. In the end, what matters most is that meaningful relationships between students and teachers can be formed and sustained throughout the school year. And I’m so thankful educators now have many different ways—and tools—to make that important connection.
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