Master Teacher and Department Chair Kim Ray on building connections with students – POP7

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

Kim Ray is Master Teacher and Department Chair at East Union High School in Manteca, California where she teaches ceramics. She has been teaching for over 20 years after trying to work as an independent artist. She still practices her art while being employed full-time. Kim believes teaching is the best job she has ever had and is still excited to go to work every day.

Top tips on how to make your students feel safe and valued as well as engaged in their learning

Kim Ray
Kim Ray

Kim likes to communicate a lot with her students. She touches base with each student every day by working with them individually which allows her to communicate her expectations repeatedly as well as getting to know them really well. She therefore knows about them, their families and how they are doing in other classes. This helps her to build up a strong rapport. It’s also important to talk to parents. Kim is available via email at any time for students or parents.

Kim shares her life experiences appropriately with her students and they do the same with her.

Kim stresses that she is not her students’ friend – she is still in charge but she builds trust in this way.

Another important factor is routine. Kim feels it’s really important that students know what they are going to be doing before they arrive in her classroom. She has taught the expectations of routine explicitly so that the students feel comfortable in class.

Humor is also really important to Kim and she believes it helps to establish the essential rapport she has with her students.

If you can share a little joke with your students it helps them to bond with you better.

All this means that Kim knows her students really well and so she can identify immediately if they are experiencing difficulties – and her relationship with them means she can offer help and support.

Jessica Bonduris on decision-making suggestions for school leaders and teachers to use – POP 5

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

We welcomed Dr. Jessica Bonduris back to the podcast this week for another kernel of wisdom. We first heard from her in episode 2 where she spoke about how to build positive relationships.

What are Jessica’s top tips around decision making when leading staff and students through positive climate change?

Transparency in decision making – Jessica believes this is particularly important for new administrators where there can be a large element of mistrust from staff members, parents or students. Being transparent allows you to alleviate a lot of the potential tension around decision making.

Jessica Bonduris
Jessica Bonduris

If it’s a shared decision on a school-wide issue you are able to make with an instructional leadership or other decision-making team, be prepared to speak about why it’s important for the school, present the data behind it and discuss it thoroughly.

As a leader you also need to be very transparent in what you expect everyone to be doing. This will help you to avoid having to catch people not doing what you expect or being disappointed when this happens.

Relationships – any programme which covers social or emotional issues is going to be used not only in the classroom but also in the cafeteria, at recess and at other times so it’s really important to teach students and staff how to use the new initiative in all areas of the school. This also needs to be communicated to parents as well so they can help at home.

Principals need to be out of their offices to see the programme being implemented in all the different settings.

Especially for new principals, any decision which is implemented in a ‘top-down’ manner has the potential to be disastrous. So it’s much better to work with the leadership group and for them to tell the rest of the school about what is going to happen and why. This way, you are building the leadership of the whole team.

Brandon adds that where the leader has already made up their mind about a decision and the group decision making ends up not being genuine, this can lead to serious problems as well.

It’s much better to be transparent and make it clear which decisions are shared and which have to be made by the principal alone rather than pretending that all decisions are shared. If you have established good relationships, then everyone will be happy to trust the principal’s judgement.

Jessica Bonduris on simple steps for teachers and leaders to build/maintain positive relationships (with students, parents and staff) – POP2

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

Dr Jessica Bonduris is one of the Directors of Elementary Principal Support for the San Francisco Unified School District. Originally an English and History teacher, Jessica then took up various assistant principal positions before becoming an elementary school principal and eventually moved into the supportive position she now has.

Jessica Bonduris
Jessica Bonduris

What are the most important strategies you used as a teacher and as a principal to make connections with and build the most student to adult relationships?

Student – teacher relationships:

  • Stand outside your door and greet every student with a smile when they enter the room – make sure there is no tension in your body – every day is a new day.

Parent – teacher relationships:

  • Make phone calls to parents before any negativity happens – parents should know your voice so that when you call they wonder what the call is about rather than immediately assuming something is wrong. You have built the relationship in advance and are much more well-received as a result.
  • Ask each parent to send in a letter about their child – what kind of learner they are and what they need. Ask each student to do the same. This helps to create a mental image of the student and how to relate to them.

Principal – teacher relationships:

Communicate effectively –

  • Formally with staff – send a regular ‘Monday Memo’ – short bullets around events and pieces of the school vision. Make it clear you expect all teachers to read it every week.
  • Informally with staff – make sure you are out and about – in the recess yard, through the hallways in every classroom. This is essential to help you know what may be coming up and be ready.

Principal – parent relationships:

  • Create a newsletter – inform parents about new initiatives several months before it happens
  • Concentrate on ‘curb appeal’ – this is not just having the grounds of the school well-kept but also being there waving and smiling at parents as they drop off their children, greeting buses and making it clear you are approachable and friendly enough to encourage parents to come in and see you.