Personalisation and Developing Real Relationships With Students

I’ve just spent the best part of a couple hours on YouTube watching a series of videos from Dr. Christopher Emdin. He is an African-American Education Professor at Columbia University, and is the man behind #hiphoped on Twitter, which has a tremendous following in North America. He has presented TED Talks about teaching teachers to create magic in the classroom, transforming education through hip-hop music, and is one of the most profound spokesmen about urban education in the US.

The video that inspired me is this one, which, if you do have 9 minutes, is well worth the view, particularly as it relates to the subject of this post. It speaks of the way he introduced hip-hop music, specifically rap and rhyme, to re-engage low-performing students who are completely disconnected from the course content. 

“They love hip-hop, they don’t love science.”

He takes an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning – combining science with music, writing, critical thinking, reflection and collaboration.

“This is not just rhyming. You’ve got to know the content.”

From the video, it is clear to the viewer that Emdin has taken the time to get to know the learners, to understand their interests and gauge their level of commitment to learning. He has their complete and utter attention, and uses language that is specific to their needs. 

“They (the students) are looking for an opportunity to be heard.”

Providing the students with a platform upon which they can express themselves, their knowledge and understanding, Emdin is personalising his teaching approach in a manner that provides students with instant engagement.

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It gave me time to think about the ways that I get to know my students. Favourite sporting teams. Personal interests. Music genre. Siblings. Pets. But the most important question, had nothing to do with my students outside of school. 

‘How do I get to know a student as a learner?’

– – – – – 

What do you do to develop positive teacher-student relationships, to know your students as learners, as well as people?

How do we then, as educators, personalise our teaching and learning practices for our learners?



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Christopher Emdin’s Website


About Dean Kuran

I'm a primary school teacher at an IB PYP school in Melbourne, Australia. I believe in establishing positive environments in which students can develop confidence and curiosity, while nurturing the skills that will benefit them outside of the learning space.
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