Armando Gutierrez: Making Lasting Connections

Dr. Armando Gutierrez

In September 2012, I presented a webinar, which gave simple ways to connect with students during the initial hours of a GED class. My colleagues and I discussed the importance of establishing a rapport with your students. We discussed the urgency of forming bonds early in the course, before doubt and life creeps in to the decision process.

In summarizing the webinar I wanted to give additional ways teachers can make the most of the first 36 hours of contact with their students. I wanted to reiterate the importance of peeling back the layers we ALL use in order to cope on a daily basis, whether we are students or teachers. I also wanted to give additional advise on keeping goals at the forefront each and everyday and how important it is to keep instruction relevant. Important aspects that are essential for your students to commit to your class and NOT leave again.

Without a doubt, the best take-away from the webinar and the most important lesson we can learn from The First 36 Hours is creating a dialog with student. One of the best books I have ever read was a book titled “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” I would implore teachers to read this book published over 76 years ago by Dale Carnegie. In it, Dale Carnegie talks about timeless ways to improve your relationships and expand your influence with others. Carnegie’s principles are more relevant today than ever before. The lost art of communication is among the baggage some students bring to our classes.

Before the Internet, texting, Skype, Twitter and Facebook, people needed to interact with real human beings. Interaction required looking into  someone’s eyes, smiling, introducing yourself, and more importantly listening. These simple interactions were a way of life. Nowadays, it is not unusual to hear we have over 300 Facebook friends and don’t know the name of our next-door neighbor.

The best way to have your students persist in your GED classrooms is to “Get to know them.” The more ways you can make that personal connection, the more committed they will be.

Dr. Armando Gutierrez is an administrator in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. He currently spearheads a project to re-engage high school dropouts in a Career Pathways model. 

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0 comments on “Armando Gutierrez: Making Lasting Connections

So true. And little things–walking to the door with them to ask how the first class went, for example, mean a lot.

Magda Erira

I agree. Just letting your students know that you care is the key. It sounds so simple, but entitles a lot!!!!

Armando Gutierrez

If we are lucky, every now and again we get a reality check, a reality check that wakes us and if we are lucky, validates the reason we entered the teaching profession. I want to share a letter (with her permission) I recently received, not for a congratulatory pat on the back, but as homage to my colleagues and those in the proverbial trenches. In balancing our work schedules and family demands, we often forget others; who count on us to bring motivation and the nurturing our profession demands. For my family and I, it’s all about the year end activities associated with a senior year.

The college visits are over and the financial aid packages are in, graduating seniors need to figure out which college to attend in the fall. But until that looming May 1st deadline, families still need to get the prom dresses and tuxedos, buy the yearbook, take senior pictures, send invitations; you know, the stuff high school seniors do their last year. A rite of passage for most teenagers, but unfortunately, an experience many of our youth long for in their lives.

These rites are so strongly linked to the school environment and culture of our society that high school dropouts often regret this aspect of their “senior year” more than the actual diploma itself. These incomplete chapters in their lives often require closure. Left unresolved and allowed to mature, these lingering issues could develop into problems such as mood and personality disorders, addictions, codependency and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

My reality check happened this week when I received a thank you letter from a grateful teen for having been a part of the Success Pathways Program, a GED re-engagement program in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. A program designed to bring back school leavers into a comprehensive GED program that utilizes a combination of career pathways objectives, work skills, and socialization activities.

The student read the letter to me in tears, in gratitude for having been a part of that experience. Her voice cracked as she struggled to push through to the end, determined to finish what she started with a renewed sense of accomplishment for her newfound stamina developed over the months in class. Having experienced failure at “completing” what she started, she was not going to stop now. I felt her desire to prove to me the skills she had acquired in the short time she had been in the class. She began by saying she needed to write it down on paper for fear she may forget something. She began reading with the swagger and confidence of a rap star. When her emotions got the best of her, she paused, collected herself, wiped away her tears and continued reading.

This time she was going to finish.

2 years ago i made the worst decision in my life
I left school, moved out I was on my own just trying to figure it all out

the past two years I always wanted to go back to school
Senior year, Prom you know all the good stuff
But I knew i would never get the chance

Coming to The English Center gave me a second chance
to end this part of my life in a way I’ll always remember
Field trips, New friends, Amazing Teachers
I’ll never forget the memories i have made here

Dr. G’s Life lessons and bending me, not Breaking me.
I’ll like to thank you for believing in me always.

Ms. Arriete, walking into the classroom always made me smile
no matter what you were to do or say would change my day for the better

Out of all the years I have gone to school I’ve never been happier than to walk into B2
See when you go to school where people actually show they care , it makes a difference.

What I am trying to say: is a big ol’ thank you
the Success Pathways Program helped me close a chapter in my life
I would never thought I would have the chance to close.
I not only on my way to get my GED but have learned many things of life and have met amazing people.
These past 3 months have been MY senior year and I loved every minute of it

I hope this program continues to give other kids a chance at not only getting their GED
But being loved and cared for;
Being bent not broken
to close that chapter in their life that has been lingering on like it has for me.

I am leaving The English Center a new person.
I am confident in myself and have become a better person.
I will achieve my goals and dreams to help other people.
But I had to stop and help my self before, I can begin to help other people.

Alexandra Hernandez
April 17, 2013


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