Connecting with your students
CJ Reynolds admits that there are a lot of things that he has to focus on to be a better teacher. Some tasks are a struggle for him, like creating content, quickly responding to emails, and doing paperwork.
But there is one thing that has always come naturally to him– connecting with young people.
As a teacher in West Philadelphia, Reynolds dials in on creating a meaningful relationship with his students. In fact, at the start of each school year, he delays handing out a syllabus and spends time telegraphing to students that he’s interested in them.
“On that first day, there’s no talk of rules or policies or procedures,” says Reynolds. “It is me trying to connect with students, and get them excited about the year.”
Reynolds really drills down with his students, “Where do you come from? What are you interested in? What kind of music do you like? What kind of movies do you like?”
Reynolds believes that making an emotional deposit with students learning who you’re teaching at the start of the year changes everything.
If students start showing up in your class just to say goodbye at the end of the day or ask how your day was, then you’re probably having some success.
Over the past few years, Reynolds has developed quite a following on YouTube. Over 45,000 subscribers tune in to see how he handles some challenging situations, like classroom management, trauma, and race.
Now Reynolds is putting a lot of his thoughts in writing. In his new book, Teach Your Class Off, The Real Rap Guide to Teaching, Reynolds offers educators a way to hit the reset button and reconnect with what energizes them about teaching.
Having difficult discussions
In Episode 154 of the Class Dismissed Podcast, we ask Reynolds how educators should talk to students about George Floyd’s homicide and the subsequent protest.
Reynolds argues that these conversations should not be hard conversations to have.
“When you create a community, within your classroom or within your school or amongst your faculty of having honest conversations no matter what. That when things come up you’ve already made the deposit into those students. They [students] already know that you care, they already that you’re real,” says Reynolds.
To hear our full discussion with Reynolds listen to the latest Episode of Class Dismissed on your favorite podcasting app or iTunes.