Good to Go Blog
At St. John's, good knows no bounds. It's greater than great academics. Here are snapshots of what it means at the Prep. Something amazing happens when you're open to good!
Teachers Who Know Their Students Part 1
A teacher’s mastery of subject matter is central to student success, but teachers who know their students as individuals can transform the learning experience. Engaging students who come to class with their own experiences, perspectives, adversities and accomplishments—in short, leaving space for students to have voice—creates a more productive, good-natured and responsive environment.
By drawing on students’ personal experience and taking an interest in their activities, teachers can ramp up rapport, delineate different learning styles, and grow students’ sense of personal agency. And this custom isn’t unique to the classroom. Teachers and staff at St. John’s who serve as club moderators and coaches invest tremendous time and energy into building healthy relationships of respect, kindness and trust with the young men they’re here to serve.
Learn more about our faculty. Come for Open House on September 12 and October 27.
We reached out to a few teachers around campus to ask them why it’s so important to them to get to know their students as individuals, and the different ways they do it.
Jay Pawlyk ’91—English: “Before I began teaching, I thought a lot about how on earth to explain Hamlet. But what’s more thrilling than the complexity of Hamlet is the complexity of kids reading it. Not only is every year different, but every class of kids is different. When you’re teaching 80 kids, that’s 80 different worlds. There’s a lot of variety of life experience and perspectives in those classrooms. That’s 80 different books in terms of the way they’re perceiving something we’re reading. But once the kids feel comfortable with you, that’s what makes it a fun and fertile environment for learning. When we analyze Hamlet, we talk about his torment at the appearance of the ghost of his father. About 15 years ago, a student said: ‘My father died when I was little, I’d give anything to spend another 10 minutes with him.’ Here was a kid connecting pain in his own life to 400-year-old character in a book. I’ve never thought of Hamlet the same. It’s always in my mind: These characters resemble real human beings and we’re teaching real human beings whose lives frequently intersect with these characters.”
Alexandra Horelik—Social Studies: “I think there are so many avenues to making those connections that both encourage and reassure kids. Content is important, but that human-to-human connection is crucial. The value of knowing who is in my classroom and knowing their interests is central to who I am as a teacher. I care about my students and care about their success, and I need to know what’s important to them when they walk into class. If something’s on their mind, I hope and think I’ve created an environment where they feel like they can share. I think celebrating with them their joys and successes and life experiences—catching a big fish, getting their driver’s permit, surviving a family visit from a grumpy uncle—has value far beyond the personal anecdote.”
Kate Tremarche—Mathematics: “In my geometry class, students complete a dream home design project. Starting with rough sketches and measurements, they graduate to a formal blueprint drawing and ultimately a virtual model they build using an app on their iPads. Drawing on their own personal experience breathed so much life into the assignment because they were eager to conceptualize and share a design that was all their own. I learn a lot about who they are and how they live as they amplify, minimize or retrofit aspects of home design they’re familiar with from their own family’s household. Those kinds of insights and connections help us form a tighter teacher-student bond as we move on to tackle higher levels of math.
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