Relational Capacity

This week our PD spent a lot of time focusing on bonding with students and developing “relational capacity.”  The idea, which is something that has been said to me before, is that people will do different things for different people based on the nature of their relation.  People will do more for people they care about or respect, than people that they don’t.  We talked about a struggle between the relationship between the student and teacher vs the student and peers.  One main questions I had was how to build that relationship while also teaching.  Even in my student teacher I often struggled with balancing talking and getting to know students and keeping on task.
Today I had a small breakthrough in this area due to students finishing a quiz earlier than anticipated (hopefully because I taught them well and they could do it without difficulty).  We had about 15 minutes left in my first class and some students worked on the homework while I ended up talking with other students.  We had some fun joking around and then I noticed a few students with their hands clasped together and asked what they were doing.  They said they were arm wrestling themselves and then once student challenged me.  I paused for a moment, but when I realized that everything I wanted to do today was done, my only response was, “Let’s go.”  
Immediately the rest of the class circled around us and the energy level shot up.  As a 6’3 over 200 lb individual in a 9th grade class, I beat him in seconds.  Soon, all of the guys lined up and I went one at a time until they were all defeated.  It was fun, I definitely had a smile on my face, and I was able to assert a little bit of classroom dominance.  Some students when a second time, and we all had fun until the bell rang.
I was hoping to do the same thing in my next class, and I even told them about it in the beginning and offered it up as a reward for good behavior.  They were not well behaved and talked a lot once they turned in their test, even as other students were still working.  I made a list of parents to call and unfortunately we didn’t get that experience.
My last class, which is often my worst class as far as behavior is concerned, was a lot better than the class before them and took the quiz time seriously.  This class has a lot of personality and I was happy to give them this time at the end.  I used it as an incentive the whole time and they responded favorably.  When the last quiz was in, I went to the student who kept asking me to arm wrestle him while students were still working and challenged him.  Once again the class circled up and watched.  I continued to arm wrestle students for a while and then just hung out and talked with them until the bell rang.  
Today (Oct 25, didn’t get internet access at the time) was a lot of fun and I think it really helped me get a little closer to my students and show them a more human side of me.  I want to work on finding more ways to get to know students and interact with them while still making some progress in physics.  I think it could be cool to do a project that involves student interests and creating posters and presenting how physics is involved in their interest.  That might allow me to get to know my students more, and be productive at the same time.

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