Jumpstart the School Year: Tips on Making Personal Connections in Blended Learning Schools


Monday, October 26, 2015 - 9:00am

The relationships a student builds with teachers and fellow students can often be the catalyst that propels the student to academic achievement and success. That was always true in traditional classroom settings, and it remains true in the blended learning models that schools across the country are turning to as a new way to engage and inspire students. With students spending some of their time online in a blended learning environment, it might seem there are fewer opportunities to make those kinds of valuable personal connections.

Educators experienced with blended learning are nonetheless finding innovative ways to nurture those all-important bonds between instructors and students. We asked educators from across the country to offer their tips on how they’re helping their students find a supportive, collaborative niche in blended learning schools.

Here’s what some of them had to say:

A great English teacher I know has her students work on Gratitude Journals. She takes the typical writing assignment, like “What I did for summer,” and makes a simple change such as “Who did something really wonderful for you this summer?” or “What are you grateful for now that you’re back at school?” Making little shifts in creating a positive school environment can help engage students.

—Heather Hiebsch, Principal, PSD Global Academy, Poudre School District

I’ve taught high school history for 20 years, mostly in an urban setting. I’ve found students want to learn. I have also found that positive connections and relationships go hand-in-hand with all types of learning. When I speak directly to teenagers and not talk down to them or about them, I get better results and their level of learning increases. Students have to have trust. When I work with a student one-to-one, the level of learning and understanding goes even further than one might expect.

—Gary Boisseau, MEd History Teacher, Springfield Central High School

Another teacher asked students to share their ideas on 3x5 cards about what they expected of their teachers as a way to build trust between teachers and students. One principal shared the story of a homeschooled student who found a sense of belonging and community at her new blended model school because she had a school sweatshirt for the first time in her life.

These and dozens of other tips and observations on a range of useful topics can be found in Fuel Education’s new guide, “Jumpstart the New School Year: Blended Learning Tips from Educators.”

Other topics in the guide cover ideas from experienced teachers, principals and other school officials on giving students choices, offering personalized learning experiences, integrating technology, creating collaborative learning spaces, and more.


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