How Do One-on-One Teacher-Student Interactions Inform the Performance of Unnoticed Students?
Paulo Freire (2000) describes people as “uncompleted beings, conscious of their incompletion,” and educational inquiry as an “attempt to be more fully human” (p. 7). As a self-declared humanist, I subscribe to this view of education as a means not so much of filling young minds with knowledge or even preparing students through skill-building to better function in the world, but more importantly making people into better human beings—human beings that can think critically, take responsibility, demonstrate empathy, and value both themselves and the larger world of which they are a part. But what does this look like in the classroom? It begins, as most good practices do, with an effective model— in this case a good teacher. If our students are to learn to become better human beings in the ways described above, then our teachers must show them how. With this idea in mind, this inquiry project focuses on teacher-student relationships and the potential effects of positive relationship building on student performance. As a secondary objective, this project also looks at the effect of these relationships upon the teacher.
To examine this I chose specific students to focus in on, students with whom I had a fairly neutral/minimal existing relationship. I then deliberately made an effort to engage with these five students on a regular basis and in a variety of ways over a two month period from mid-February to mid-April. Each of the students had struggled in some significant way, and an aim of the project was to see if there would be a noticeable change in their attitudes or behavior as a result of increased teacher attention.
The short-term goals (accomplished this year) of the project are to improve student performance and to find an optimal teaching style that allows a teacher to engage individual students more personally and more regularly. The long term goals (potentially lifelong) are to inform better teaching practices and to help students become better human beings. The first step toward this last goal is for the teacher to get to know the students as human beings. The purpose of this project is to explore the next steps along with the students by giving them attention so that they might develop a voice— might develop agency.