Most of us who work as teachers find that working with students is the most important reward of the job. I believe it is beneficial to build some kind of relationship with each student in the class to help determine how to best to meet individual learning needs. These relationships are build over the course of the semeseter – and all to often, they end after final exams.
On the first day of a new semester, I often wonder how I will make the class have a cohesive camaraderie, and if it will live up to the one I taught the previous semester, or in previous years. People are often quiet and shy, and are not showing their true colors yet.
I spend a bit of time getting to know them by hanging out before and after class, providing comments on work turned in, walking around and interacting with small group discussions, sending emails regarding missed assignments, and offering help whenever its appropriate. In some cases, students will offer information about themselves – like work scheduling, family obligations, and outside activities. This gives me the opening to talk with them individually about more personal things.
Right around mid-semester, things start gelling, and people are talking and interacting. I know all the names in the class, and I generally know a little bit about each student other than just their student life. They also seem to be more comfortable with each other, and are more willing to contribute in class. The begin forming community.
By the end of the semester, the students genuinely enjoy being with each other. I have bonded with them, and we have a thriving community atmosphere. Often, as we are wrapping up for the semester, I might mention that we only have 2 or 3 class sessions left, and some students are visibly disappointed – and I am too.
Once the class is over, I miss the students. It seems like I only have them for a short time, and I want to know how they’re doing, and what they’re up to.
I am always so happy to run into former students at the college, or in the community. I saw one student in the enrollment center one day, and she emailed me later expressing her difficulty scholarship funding. I was able to share her story with the right people, and she was able to get what she was promised – and it made it possible for to continue going to school. Another group of my former students coordinated their schedules, and are purposefully taking classes together this semester.
Our time in class is short, and I have memories of many students long after the semester is over. I often wonder if our impact on students is limited to the time we have them in class. I know they have impacted me. I would love to see some comments on how others have retained contact with former students.