When working with preschoolers, I found that if I connected with them, they were eager to come to school, were motivated to learn and developed a love for learning. Connect 4 Learning is the title of a new, early childhood curriculum being piloted in local Michigan preschools. Titles often give us insight into the prominent theme. This title is no exception. Not only is it a clever title for a curriculum, but it now serves as inspiration for me when working with students of any age.
Thinking back on my time as a student, the educators that I remember were the ones who connected with me as an individual. They took interest in my learning but also showed interest in my goals, hobbies, activities outside of school, my family and my friends. They viewed me as more than just a learner. They made me feel like I mattered as an individual. For this reason, I worked harder and wanted to succeed. Failing the course would have felt like failing someone I had connected with. I connected with the educator, and as a result, I learned. I learned more in classes when I connected with the instructor than when I had not.
This semester, I learned that the college students I work with thrived when they connected with me. Being a first-time community college instructor, I used my background as an administrator to guide how I worked with students. I shared my wealth of experiences and expertise. Yet, I felt that students only listened. I felt no connection, and I am sure they did not either. Whether they were learning or not was not evident. After a guest speaker shared his wisdom with our Transforming Learning Through Teaching class, I tried connecting with students before sharing my experiences and expertise to guide their learning. I worked to become like one of the educators I remembered from my schooling.
Like those educators from long ago, I noticed a change when I connected with my students. Questions were asked. Conversations blossomed. Skill growth became evident as our time together progressed. It became clear that to help my students succeed and receive a high-quality education, I needed to connect with them as much as I needed to teach them. I will take the time to connect with them for their learning, to motivate them and feed a love for learning; much like my preschoolers. It sounds so simple, yet it is extraordinarily powerful.