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Getting To Know Your Students

Getting To Know Your Students

At the beginning of the year I like to get to know my students a little bit. Developing a good rapport with them is vital to enhancing their learning throughout the year. When you can relate to each student on an individual level, you are better able to differentiate and provide individualised learning experiences.

I find a good way to start this process with a group of students I’ve never met before is to get them to fill in a little survey like this one. I used that exact one this year, so far with a year 8 class I will have for home group, maths and science. I figured because I would be seeing them so often, and having such a large portion of their education in my care, I really want to get to know them well as people and as students.

I first went through each of those questions, answering them myself and letting the students ask any questions they might have about me. I find older students and younger students tend to be less shy about asking questions, but 8-10 seem to be a little intimidated. So I blabbered on about me and why I’m so awesome (in those exact words) until I had them laughing and joining the conversation.

Once we’d exhausted the topic of me, I gave them their surveys. I told them I would be the only person to read these, and I certainly wouldn’t be sharing their answers with the rest of the class. They were to complete the questions fully, honestly, and independently.

Once they were finished, I collected the papers and put them away to look at after school.

What I read shocked me a little.

The last question asks for them to tell me something they wish their teachers knew. There were a few things in there that amused me “That I’m amazing”, “That I will talk to anyone, no matter where you sit me”, that type of thing. But some other things were much more deep and meaningful. For the sake of their privacy I won’t discuss those responses here, but there were a few I passed right on to the year coordinator as head of their pastoral care.

Over half the class said that they don’t like talking in front of the class, some stressing this quite strongly. I talked about this with them the next day, explaining how it is something they will need to address and deal with during high school. Almost every subject has a presentation as an assessment at some stage, and it is the type of thing that they will get more comfortable with when they have more experience with it. It did amuse me a lot though, given that about a third of the class said they want to go into acting when they’re older.

Another question asks about whether they feel comfortable reading, and what they like to read. Perhaps not surprisingly but many of the class said they don’t like reading (sorry miss), but only a few didn’t feel confident. I’m hoping I can ignite a bit of enjoyment with reading in them by the end of the year. I’ve found you often just have to find the right type of thing to read to get them on board, particularly the boys. Reading is so damn important, I won’t let them get through the year without building confidence and competence. We will spend one or two mornings a week doing 5 minutes of reading a book of their choice I think, and definitely some specific readings in science and maths. I’m not a huge fan of reading comprehension, so I’ll be on the lookout for different types of activities we can do.

Many of them put down pizza as their favourite food, but I have a feeling that could be because I talked extensively of my own love of pizza. This could be a sign that they are trying to bond with me already, or simply that it was the first thing to come to mind.

A few put down maths or science as their hardest subjects, but not as many as I’d expected. The rest ranged right across the subject offerings, which gives me hope that they are widely skilled and interested in a variety of things as a class. I can definitely work with that and draw on their individual talents and interests throughout the year.

Overall I really do feel like I received good information about my students from this survey. There is a lot there I can work with throughout the year to get to know them better and build up that rapport. Because I will be seeing them multiple times each day, it’s going to be so important to form those good relationships – more for their sake than mine, there is nothing worse then being stuck for so long with a teacher you don’t get along with! Hopefully that doesn’t happen this year, and we can have a great year of learning and fun!


Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys sharing the real and human teacher life, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine.

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