You’ve Gotta Connect: Building Relationships that Lead to Engaged Students, Productive Classrooms, and Higher Achievement by James Alan Sturtevant

You’ve Gotta Connect: Building Relationships that Lead to Engaged Students, Productive Classrooms, and Higher Achievement by James Alan Sturtevant makes the case that the most important thing teachers can do is connect with and accept their students. It may not always be easy, but once you do connect, students will behave better and learn more. This book is packed with great advice and belongs in every teachers professional development library. Click at the bottom on any page to purchase copies for teachers you know.

James Alan Sturtevant

  • James has worked as a high school social studies teacher since 1985. He see it as a wonderful activity but his job by no means defines him. Since the early 1990s he has taught at Big Walnut High School located in Sunbury, Ohio. He earned a BA in history and Political Science from Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio, and an MA in history from the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. He has been married to Penny Sturtevant since 1991.  Penny is the principal at Big Walnut Middle School. They have three children that they love dearly.

1. Commitment: Don’t Start Class Without It.

  • When a visiting professor asked him how he created such a wonderful atmosphere in his classroom, James gave it much thought and came up with the following. Connections have improved as his career has progressed. Connection is not automatic as he had to work at it. You don’t have to have his personality type to connect. You need to be willing to try new approaches and gauge their effectiveness. As a result of this pondering, this book was born.
  • To begin, you have to make a commitment to connect, even with students who have annoying attitudes. You also need to be prepared to work hard on connecting with some students. Humans need connection and when they connect, they are more likely to be happy and productive. Connected students will be more engaged in learning and more creative as well. They will retain more, have fewer behavior issues, feel better about themselves, get along with other students, achieve at higher levels, and not drop out. Keep in mind that you can care for a student and still have high expectations.
  • James suggests that you make a poster for yourself that contains what effective communication is and is not. (See page 22) In short, you need to be: available, caring, respectful, trustworthy, warn, welcoming, compassionate, loving, interested in students, a great listener, and accepting. What you shouldn’t do is: act like a peer, try too hard to be liked, gossip, have vague boundaries and expectations, be sarcastic, pamper students, be phony, demand respect rather than earn it, and pretend to care. Like the other chapters in this book, this one ends with a number of activities that you can do by yourself or with others to help internalize the key concepts.
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