Use Today's Technology to Build Student-Teacher Relationships December 05 2011

The purpose of education is to prepare students for the future—after all my years in the classroom as a student and then as a teacher, that’s just the simplest way to say it. Education helps us improve ourselves. Education helps us progress. Education is of inestimable value to the willing mind.

Engage the Mind

Ah, the willing mind. I taught English as a second language for years; I also taught French classes and Mandarin classes (yes, I speak both); and I even teach Sunday school for my church. My wife is in a similar boat: she is a substitute teacher, stay-at-home mom, and leads music for the children in our church. Some people can’t seem to get away from teaching in one form or another, and we are some of those people. In all my years, as I’m sure you’ll agree, I’ve found that most minds truly are willing—if you learn to wake them up.

I don’t mean “wake up” in a more literal sense, as if students are perennial sleepers (though I’m sure you’ll forgive their dynamic, pubescent bodies; growing up takes an awful lot of energy). I mean “wake up” in the form of arousing and engaging the mind. Engagement is a fickle thing; too many teachers resort to shouting, and shouting tends to break the connection more often than it establishes any kind of relationship with your students. Relationships are key. Students need to learn to trust you as a person before they will trust you as a teacher.

Dedicate the Heart

“Will”—we don’t distinguish often enough between the two forms of this verb. The first and most prevalent form is a helping verb to denote future action. The second—and perhaps more important—is that “will” stems from “desire” and “want.” So in other words, students need to learn to trust you as a person before they want to trust you as a teacher. Their will—their agency—is the portal to reaching their minds and encouraging growth.

Therefore, if you intend to achieve your goal, which is to prepare your students, then your first priority is to build relationships on trust that engage the mind and dedicate the heart. The goal has ever been and will always be the same.

Today's Technology to Motivate Students

Our methods, however, must adapt to today’s changing society. As more students in the rising generation skyrocket past us in technological savvy, perhaps we should consider climbing aboard their rocket, so to speak.

Technology is the way to access these students—if they are wasting time on smartphones, then perhaps that is because we have not shown them how to use such a powerful tool. Consider this: if your student can better navigate your learning management system than you can, then they are obviously engaged and willing to learn those things that interest them.

How, then, does your topic interest them? How does the history of civilization relate to today’s continual strides toward unknown futures? How can the human condition expounded on in Shakespeare’s Hamlet speak to the imitations of reality that we propagate today? And how does biology of a beetle relate to the far less complicated motherboard in a computer?

Show students how to find the answers to these questions, and you will engage their minds like no one—no one—has before.

About the Author: Jared Heath is a content manager, freelance writer, and former educator. He currently works in the education field, encouraging educators to dare to innovate.