Rapport is a crucial aspect of my classroom. I know each and every child's favorite color by the end of the first week (we do a lot of illustrating) I know their parents names, things they enjoy doing and find that using this all year long is very important. I do have to say that I didn't realize how important these things were until I started hosting student teachers in my classroom.
I am always a very vibrant, loud, and by the time I go home, exhausted teacher. When I would evaluate some of my student teachers, their lessons were good solid lessons with content, but lacked in emotion. I couldn't find the words to describe what I do is different than what they do. I searched for the words to try to get them to be more excited about what they were doing and to "have fun" with it. Those words simply do not do teaching justice. Teaching to me is about absolutely loving what you do so much that it "infects" those around you... like Dave's first three days of classes, those students can't help but get sucked in! After a few more weeks of my first student teacher performing lessons that were good in content, but lacking in intensity; I finally found the words to describe what I am doing.
It's showtime! From 8-3 I am putting on a show for children age 7. You have to be exciting, mysterious, fun, silly, scary.. and even more to engage a 7 year old for 6+ hours a day. It was the only thing that made sense to me because "having fun" with teaching certainly doesn't describe what I do.
Another thing that Dave mentions is Behavior Management and how when a student is engaged, they are less of a behavior. I can attest to that to some degree. My classroom is a self-contained classroom. I see students who are there because of medical reasons such as ADHD, Autism, Intellectual Disabilities, Learning Disabilities and so on. The list of things that are working against my students is endless. There have been few instances where I was literally popping balloons for students and they were completely disengaged. Dave then mentions that when you make things a contest, you create "buy-in". This is where my buy-in comes into play. When I have kids in my classroom that no matter how outrageous my lessons are, they just aren't into it.. I offer incentives. Kids age 7 will work for almost anything.. even a single starburst! I allow my students to earn pennies for being on task and participating where they can "shop" in the Prize box after they earn 10. I also use "silent sparklers" in my classroom where the class votes on a snack and they work to fill a jar to earn it. This year we had chips and salsa, jello with whipped cream, and fruit salad. I also use group points when working in groups. Each table is a different Disney Character and those tables earn points for collaborative and supportive working arrangements. The group with the most points at the end of the week receives lunch with me. They are my "Movie Stars of the Week". This creates a huge buy-in, in the world of a 7 year old.
My students also get to know me.. my life outside the room. We share stories about what we ate for dinner the night before, what we watched on tv, who we visited. I love getting to know the person, not just the student.