Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Beginnings: Welcoming New Students

Like any teacher, the first day of a new year or semester leaves me standing in front of a bunch of strangers wondering what this new group of students will bring. Getting to know this new group of students is important for teaching them, and they must also get to know me. My new semester began last week and I gained 170 fresh faces in my virtual classroom. So, how do I get to know them? How do they get to know me? I take a several steps at the beginning of every semester to build a rapport with my students. When students enter my classroom for the very first time, they are greeted with the opportunity to learn a little bit about me through my “Meet Miss Brown” website. 

I share images and facts about myself like I would if I was beginning the first day of class in a brick and mortar classroom. I email all students and welcome them to the course as well, and I include some helpful hints of where to find important information and where they can reach me. During the first and second week of any new class, I like to call each student and individually welcome them to my class and make sure they know how to use their scanner and answer any other questions they might have. At a number like 170 this can be time consuming, but I feel it is really important that each student knows I am here to help and excited that they are here to learn. 

At this point there is still much for me to learn about my new students. I like to know about their previous art experiences as well as their personal interests. The more I know about my students, the better I can structure my class to meet their needs and build a rapport by helping them incorporate their personal goals and interests into their work. I gather all this information by assigning a survey during the first week of class that students fill out. I learn a lot about them through the surveys and I use the information on a daily basis when I communicate with my students. 
A snippet from my call log I use to keep track of contacting students

I take information from the surveys and enter it into a log. I keep a spreadsheet of every time I contact a student or attempt to contact a student from day one. I started using this method when I subbed as an online teacher last year, but I am convinced that it would be useful in a brick and mortar classroom as well. It is impossible to remember all 170 students, when and what we talked about last, and their interests and hobbies. Having this information at my fingertips helps me engage reluctant learners and build a rapport with each student. When I call and check in on that test they were worried about passing that we talked about two weeks ago, the student knows I really care and that I am paying close attention to them.
By using these steps in my classroom I am setting up for a successful semester for all. I am excited for another great Art 1 class!

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