Lower the force field
Standing over a student can cause anxieties to rise and/or leave a student feeling defensive. Instead sit next to the student or kneel at the same level as the student. This will help foster a feeling of togetherness.
Sitting behind the teacher desk separates yourself from students thus creating an invisible barrier between you and the students. Start tracking how often you sit behind your desk versus how often you are up and about and/or seated with students. The more time spent with students, the lower the force field will be.
Feed the senses
Students will respond to cues in their environment. For example, every day for SSR (sustained silent reading) I would turn the lights off in my room and turn on only the lamps. Students would quietly enter the room for reading. If I forgot to turn off the overhead lights, students would loudly enter the room and choose socializing over reading. Ignite the 5 senses! How does your room look, sound, smell, feel and yes, taste...do you offer the occasional snack? From lighting and seating to plug-ins and snacks, the subtle changes in environment can shift the feel of your classroom for students.
Avoid the dark side
When a student says, "OMG I hate this activity, I don't even want to do it"...whatever thought you may have and however offended you may be...do not go to the dark side. Instead offer new light.
- I spent a lot of time on a truly awesome activity that integrate technology (taking pictures with cell phones), manipulatives and tweeting final picture products. Students were having fun! But then it happened...a student uttered the words, "This activity is so stupid!" I admit my first thought was, "Just do the stinking activity! Can't you see everyone else is having fun?!" I rallied quickly, swallowed my pride, knelt down to the same level as the student and said with sincerity, "I am so sorry this activity is upsetting. Is there another way you would like to do this?" She let out a sigh of relief and said, "Yes, please. Instead of using these manipulatives can I just write out the sentences and I tweet those?" I said, "Absolutely!" If a student can offer another way to demonstrate understanding that does not water down the rigor/relevancy of the content then by all means let them!
We are neither more than the students, nor are we less than the students. We must be one with the students in order to truly have our fingers on the pulse of their learning needs. We cannot be one with the students if we are not having conversations with the students about their struggle and/or successes. We cannot be one with the students if we choose to sit behind our teacher desk. We cannot be one with the students if we are unwillingly to listen to them. We can only be one with students when we choose to feel their struggles and work through their struggles with them. We can only be one with the students when we choose to celebrate their successes and in turn push them to go beyond what they thought possible. We can only be one with students once remove the barrier of the teacher desk and choose to be with the students. We can only be one with students once we focus less on the idea of an orderly classroom and instead pour our energies into creating a culture of learning in order to grow together.