The power of one-on-one student-teacher meetings

As I wrap up the winter semester with my first-year Office Administration students with one-on-one mock job interviews, I’m wishing I could have met with each one in this way earlier.

These mock interviews have students implementing the crash-course lessons they learned on interviewing skills in the career strategies portion of my communications course.

There's no substitute for a face-to-face meeting between teacher and student

For many, it’s the first professional-style interview where they are asked behavioural questions and are expected to show they are much more than “hardworking,” “punctual,” and “able to work under pressure.”

It’s also the first time that most have met one on one with me. While there’s little time for chitchat, sometimes I get a chance to talk about other things, such as the challenges they’ve overcome that year or their dreams for the future.

I’m always amazed how differently students communicate with me in this setting: sitting across from each other in a small meeting room with no one to overhear our conversation. The keeners are keen in any environment; however, students who have been too shy to speak out in class all year often talk candidly and confidently, and some who appeared indifferent during many lessons are more engaged than ever.

There’s no doubt this is a great way to connect with students. And I am certain that creating personal connections with one’s students—building rapport—is one of the keys to an effective class dynamic and an engaged classroom.

I saw this over the last few weeks while helping a fellow communications instructor conduct her own mock interviews with her students. She had struggled with behavioural issues in her classroom, but every single student interviewed by us showed her depth, warmth and respect. I wondered if deeper mutual respect could have been sown if another face-to-face meeting had taken place halfway through the year between my instructor friend and her students.

I can't help but feel that one-on-one meetings are a little like a climber-belayer relationship—a student is more likely to be fearless and true to himself or herself when it's just the two of you and the challenge in the room

Fortunately for me, I thoroughly enjoyed my office administration students and I did not suffer from the behavioural issues experienced by my colleague, but I wonder how my classroom environment would have improved if I’d held some type of checkup meetings with student in the seventh week or so. I could have spent 15 minutes meeting with each student to ask them how they were doing and how I could help with their challenges.

Such a meeting would provide further validation that I care about them and that I am invested in their success. And it would provide each student with a confidential and safe opportunity to ask for help without fear of judgement by his or her peers.

And isn’t that a big part of creating a positive learning atmosphere? Creating a safe environment built on mutual respect?

So I’m going to try to find a way to do it. I hope to integrate one-on-one meetings with students in all my courses in each semester.

I’m going to build a better rapport, a potent sense of safety, and even deeper mutual respect. And I’ll let you know how it goes.

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About teachingteacher

Business communications instructor, journalist, corporate communications writer and media trainer ... and Masters Candidate M.Ad.Ed.
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