Monday, September 15, 2014

Every Child Deserves to Have Someone Be Crazy About Them

Speak to anyone and they will name the teacher who made a difference in their lives. Whether the teacher was a source of encouragement to succeed and pursue opportunities outside of their comfort zone, someone who made them feel valued, or perhaps the person that rescued them from a harmful situation, the thing that all influential teachers have with their students is rapport.

 As the new academic year commences, we should remember that establishing rapport with each and every student is critical to students’ academic success and overall mental health. By seizing the opportunity to build rapport with each student, the teacher is validating the student’s importance in the school community. As a result, students may feel safer, experience a sense of belonging to a community, and be motivated to work hard in the classroom. Students who have rapport with their teacher feel safer to talk to the teacher regarding serious issues that may be impacting their physical or mental health.

I’ve learned through my experience that a great way to establish rapport is to greet each student individually by name when he or she enters the classroom. This lets the students know that they are welcome and you are excited to have them in the classroom. Rapport may be very easy to establish with some students, whereas, others may make you work for it. These students may have a history of behavioral issues, academic failures, or persistent issues at home. To make these students feel part of the classroom community, I advise new and experienced teachers to find opportunities for brief conversations. Talk with these students about general topics, not academics or behavior, to demonstrate that you, as a teacher, value what the students see as important. You may just find your name mentioned some day when someone describes the teacher who helped them reach their potential.

As the late newscaster Andy Rooney once said, “Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.”

Kate Nichols, Director 
McDowell Institute for Teacher Excellence in Positive Behavior Support

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Harvard Professional Development Opportunity

This summer, I had the opportunity to attend a Harvard Professional Development Program for Academic Leaders – Institute for Management and Leadership in Education (MLE). It was two weeks of magic and, as Oprah used to call them, “ah-ha moments” for me. It wasn’t so much what I learned how to do (there were wonderful sessions on academic planning, academic assessment and budgeting in the “new normal” of higher education, to name a few) but more what I learned about myself.

I have been proud and humbled to lead the College of Education for the last five years – and have tried each day to work on my skills to maximize the benefits of the College. However, at Harvard I learned I must continue to grow these skills and develop others in order to truly lead this great College, which I believe is the true foundation of this university. This means leading our team to effectively make decisions that will benefit us all. And, enjoying the journey that the College is on, both on campus and with our external partners.

For this upcoming academic year, this will mean a renewed focus upon our mission to educate ethical individuals and be a resource to the community within the tenants of our conceptual framework – which, among other things, focuses upon our collective beliefs of valuing lifelong learning and engaging in collaborative endeavors. I look forward to this upcoming academic year as a time to expand the COE’s academic reputation across the campus and the region. We have just begun to shine.

— Elizabeth Mauch, Dean