Sunday, July 27, 2014

Building Positive and Respectful Relationships

Relationships will make or break your ability to be an effective educator.  Relationships establish a classroom and school environment where students feel safe and can learn.  In Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, once a students physiological needs are met and he/she feels safe, that child must then feel he/she belongs.

Some teachers naturally develop positive and respectful relationships with students. What is it about these teachers?  Michael Linsin says that all students "are drawn to teachers who exude a calm, friendly demeanor."  Rather than using "relationships" as a strategy, simply show you care with all of your actions.

Eric Jensen says "There's a huge difference between an orderly school where things run smoothly and an ordered school, which follows a top-down authoritarian model.  The former respects the students; the latter treats them like second class citizens." Treat all students as people deserving of respect.

Here are some ideas that are important to developing relationships.

Give respect first-Don't expect students to respect you because you are the teacher.  While we wish all students came to school with great social skills and an understanding of simple, basic manners or cultural norms, not all do.  We are teachers, let's teach them by role modeling.  Give respect even when they least deserve it.  If a student is in the office for a negative behavior, give respect even while giving a consequence.  You can't control if they give you respect.  Lecturing them on the virtues of respect will likely go on deaf ears.  Start the respect cycle by modeling respect.

Be consistent-Show no favoritism to students.  Students should be shown that you care about them no matter what.  While certain student actions might elicit a positive response from you and other student actions will elicit a negative response, these actions must be consistent regardless of who the student is.

Show that you care-Don't tell kids you care, show them.  Don't single kids out to show you care, simply listen when they come to you to talk. Treat all kids with respect and dignity.

Speak positively about students- Avoid making a negative comment, joke, or negative remark about a student.  Other students, even ones that are well behaved, will infer that you don't care about that student.  It will affect your entire classroom culture.

Treat students with dignity-One of the best football coaches I ever have been around treated all kids with dignity.  His athletes knew that he cared about them no matter if they were a 5th string Sophomore or an all-state caliber running back.  How did his athletes know? Because he reacted and interacted with both athletes in the same way, regardless of ability.

Authenticity-Be yourself.

Let students come to you.  Don't go to a student and ask about their personal lives when you were not invited by the student to do so.  Instead, give respect first, act in a consistent way, show that you care, speak positively about students, treat students with dignity, and be authentic.  When you do these things, students will be drawn to you.

Relationships will happen naturally.  Will they be positive and increase a sense of belonging, creating a great learning environment? It's up to
the adults to create and nurture this environment.