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Building Relationships with your Audience

On the last day of the spring term, my Writing for Engineers students presented me with a card shaped like an apple with all of their sentiments enscribed inside. Saying I was touched by this gesture is an overstatement. Like a trophy, I proudly have it displayed on my desk.

Earlier in term, Professor Gleason who observed this particular course, said that she "rarely ever observed a class where was an instructor was able to engage students so effectively." Of course I craft units and activities that reinforce the content, but I accredited much of this observation to the luck of the draw- sometimes you are wheeled out students who want to learn and often times you are wheeled out students who rather be doing something else. I do believe it is my job to switch those light bulbs on, but I agreed this semester was one of the best I had. Professor Gleason, proclaimed, "the rapport you have with them is so comfortable. You can't teach that."

After each class, often I reflect on what went well and what could be improved, but as this semester came to a close, I began to wonder did I do something different like Professor Gleason said or was it simply the luck of the draw?

My normal bag of teaching tricks includes: Learning names quickly and majors, individual and group activities, setting goals, incorporating humor, using Powerpoint and timely stories that show how the week's unit is relevant to their future careers. What was new? Using Camtasia, PollEverywhere and incorporatating gamification where students earned badges in Blackboard for attaining certain grades or making improvements on revisions. I do think the students enjoyed this aspect, hence my trophy at the end.

But beyond technology, I think what I did better this term was stress how proud I was of them. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? Each semester I've ascribed to such, because quite frankly I do not think teachers say it enough; learning can be such a vunerable process at any age. I do think I praised a hint better this spring, which I accredit to the gamification course I took through Coursera. It reminded me what games can do pretty well-- build confidence. The more confidence you have, the more apt you are to learn how to get to the next level.

It is not complicated to build a relationship; it is about investing the time and showing geniune interest in their individual success. I agree that is not something you can teach, rather understand just as one feels valued by a teacher, even a supervisor or the organization as a whole, the harder one will work to succeed. You have to put yourself in your students' shoes. What would you want from your teacher? Most semesters at least half of my students earn A's and trust me none of them would say I'm an easy grader. Yet by taking a bit more time to show them how much I care about their future, this semester 15 students out of 21 students earned A's and the lowest grade was a C-; no D's or F's. My highest score yet!

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