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The Impact of High-Quality Connections

By Tomeka Wilcher

Remote teaching removes physical connection and may even create a barrier when we try to form authentic bonds with students. Teaching to small screens with or without a face may lead us to question whether students feel connected and supported or completely disconnected. Within the synchronous and asynchronous learning environment, there is always this nagging desire to know if students understand the material, if they are comfortable, and if they feel supported.

As a result, we work tirelessly to ensure that students are learning, that they trust us as their teacher, and that they feel a part of a community. This tendency, however, can keep us from ever stepping away from the role of teacher, expert, coach, facilitator, nurturer, clarifier, lecturer, problem solver and mediator. When students reach out to ask a question or seek assistance, we feel an urge to respond, regardless of place and time. And technology makes it easy - too easy.

Though we block out time and try to create boundaries and decompress, we still find ourselves responding to students' needs. If not dealt with, this constant tug-of-war can become an added layer of stress. Therefore, we must respect the boundaries we have in place and incorporate high-quality connections within our classes.

High-quality connections exhibit the power of a single interaction. They embody "mutual regard, trust, and active engagement" (Dutton, 2003, p. xv). They are genuine moments that leave a lasting impression, as when our feedback makes a student realize his/her/their potential.

High-quality connections can consist of:

  • Emailing students and informing them of a second chance
  • Highlighting a student's accomplishments during class
  • Using students' work as exemplars
  • Taking the time to provide meaningful feedback that also emphasizes students' strengths
  • Asking your students to tell you something good at the beginning or at the end of class
  • Providing resources that could potentially give students direction or insight

In each of these actions lies the message to students that "you matter." Hopefully, as we incorporate these high-quality connections, they will remedy any guilt associated with not always being accessible and will help us reimagine what it means and how it looks to create genuine relationships in today's classroom.

Reference

Dutton, J. E. (2003). Energize your workplace: How to create and sustain high-quality connections at work. Jossey-Bass.

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