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  • Nicholas J. Martino

How to make students feel welcome, relevant, and inspired.


Photo by Hannah Cho

As students transition from the outside world, other classes, restaurants, and PE class and into our learning space they hopefully feel a few things; welcome, relevant, and inspired.

First, they feel welcome.

The feeling usually begins moments before the start of class when my students see me outside the space socializing with students in they enter. Students are all greeted by name and small talk on a personal topic of interest. These greetings help deepen our rapport as they enter a room that has been livened up with both lighting and music, curated for the day.

Secondly, they feel relevant.

They enter the space and begin pondering some pearl of wisdom that I have left for them. They know that their task is to connect this clue to their life, our class, our school or our world. Classes start with student's voice in sharing their connections. A culture of listening and learning has been a focus since the beginning of our time learning together.

Thirdly, they feel inspired.

They know that this time together is of world significance. Students are aware that they can ask 'why' and veer off in any direction at any point to make learning personally relevant. Further, my educational philosophy regarding application and experience fosters regular student-led events, updates, and announcements.

We usually start the year with a quote from one of my mentors, Bruce Lee.

"Knowing is not enough; we must apply.

Willing is not enough; we must do."

Our students are mass-media consumers, so it takes strong content/deep relevance to gain their attention.

  • If you choose your class content, music, lighting, do so carefully. My recommendation: crowdsource these things from the students.

  • Start a unique hashtag (#) and pull from the content that students generate.

  • Have students create a Spotify playlist for your class.

Use sites like Twitter / Instagram / Giphy / Pinterest to find high-quality content that has already been vetted by other internet users.

Former colleagues, students, and workshop participants comment below with a quotation that had an impact on you!

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