Sean Dunphy’s message to teachers was simple — build relationships with your students and you’ll find the joy in teaching.
Dunphy, a national trainer for Capturing Kids Hearts, was in Newton Thursday and Friday to work with teachers from both the Newton Community School District and the Baxter School District.
The program, part of a national initiative first started by Flip Flippen, aims to transform school culture to create a place where students feel valued. In a press release, the organization said its goal is to “transform the campus into an emotionally safe and relationally connected place for students, staff and parents to come together with a love of learning.”
For Richard Beeler, who teaches physical education classes at Baxter, the class has been an eye-opening experience, giving him the opportunity to look at things in a different light. Working through the class materials with Dunphy helped Beeler realize in the past he may inadvertently been creating situations with social anxiety for students in his physical education classes.
Beeler said he plans to start greeting students as they walked into the gymnasium next year, one of the cornerstones of the Capturing Kids Hearts program.
“I’m usually setting up for the next class when they walk in, that’s something I need to do a better job of doing,” Beeler said.
During the second day of training on Friday, Dunphy encouraged the teachers in attendance to develop a coaching mentality and bring it with them into their classrooms. If teachers want to build a strong connection with their students they need have an intentional plan, Dunphy said. Drawing on his experience as a former high school coach, Dunphy talked about “teaming it up,” bringing students back together at the end of class time to reflect, a process many coaches utilize.
“We end our time in a meaningful way,” Dunphy said.
Working to build one on one relationships with each student in the classroom gives teachers an edge they can utilize to improve student performance. Students who feel a strong connection with their teacher are more likely to complete assignments on time and pay attention in class, even if they’re not interested in the subject material, Dunphy said. Teachers can help students build a passion for school, even if they aren’t passionate about the content
“Here’s what I’ve learned over time — I love science. I’m all in on science,” Dunphy said. “But not every kid loves science. I don’t want to get you to love science, I want to get you to love science class.”
For Newton Community School District teacher Kathy Ventling, it’s a message that makes sense. Ventling, who taught at the district’s alternative high school West Academy last year before moving to Berg Middle School, has learned the importance of building relationships with students. At West, teachers, staff members and students have learned to think of themselves as “family,” something Ventling said makes it easier when students have to complete tough tasks.
“Part of the thing with this program is validation, it’s the things you had to know to teach at West,” Ventling said. “I can get kids to do things they wouldn’t have done for another teacher.”
Working with smaller class sizes at West has made it easier to develop those relationships, Ventling said. As she moves into her new role at the middle school she’s focused on learning how to become a “main street” teacher, working with a larger class size than she had previously. Incorporating the lessons she’s learned in the Capturing Kids Hearts workshop will make the transition easier, she said.
“There’s less time, less contact, you really have to make it part of the process,” Ventling said.
Dunphy’s goal isn’t just for students to love coming to school — he wants teachers to feel the same joy about their jobs they had when they started teaching.
“I want them to find their joy, teaching kids is very emotionally difficult, it’s natural to get frustrated and lose energy over time,” Dunphy said.
After a career in teaching and coaching Dunphy starting working with Flippen Group to teach Capturing Kids Hearts classes eight years ago. While teaching he took part in the same training. It was during the training process that things started to click for Dunphy. Many of the same skills he’s teaching now he was already practicing while coaching, he hadn’t brought them into the classroom yet.
“I was doing it, I just wasn’t aware of it,” Dunphy said.
Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or firstname.lastname@example.org