I am reading Culturize: Every Student, Every day, Whatever It Takes, by Jimmy Casas. He describes the importance of the 3 R’s – Relationships, Relationships, Relationships.
Casas describes our need to be a champion for kids; for all students. Connecting with kids and valuing them is key to being a champion. If you search ‘being a champion for students’, you will find the TED talk of the late Rita Pierson. Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be. If you’ve never seen it, stop now and enjoy.
“Kids don’t learn from teachers they don’t like!”
Knowing is critical to building a relationship. Casas describes our need to know students’ interest, fears and talents. Howard Pitler writing in a blog titled, 6 Questions To Ask Your Students On Day One, poses this question about the start of the school year: “Will your students be greeted by rules and “thou shalt nots”, or by questions that set the stage for thinking and risking?”
Here are two questions Pitler suggests teachers use:
- What do you see as your greatest strength? Students get an indication of what their teacher values when asked this question. It sets the stage for building a growth mindset.
- What are the characteristics or attributes you want in a teacher? Knowing students thoughts about an “ideal teacher” provides an opportunity for personal reflection concerning how your style matches and how certain teaching practices of yours may need modification or explanation to students.
Casas adds that in addition to knowing our students we need to build opportunities for students to know us and to know each other. How do you communicate the beliefs and values that drive your teaching behaviors? Trust with students is built as they see your day to day actions matching the way you described yourself early on. If students are to work collaboratively, supporting each other’s learning, they need to know each other.
In a blog post, Relationships…The Most Important Factor?, Casas raises the connection of skills to relationships. As I read his comments, I pondered the necessity of the skills required to be a relationship builder.
In Strategies for Teachers to Develop Positive Relationships With Students, Derrick Meador presents these strategies that assist teachers in building positive relationships with students.
- Provide structure
- Teach with enthusiasm and passion
- Have a positive attitude
- Incorporate humor in lessons
- Make learning fun
- Use students’ interest in lessons
- Incorporate story telling
- Show interest in students lives outside of school
- Treat students with respect
- Go the extra mile (My interpretation: Be a Champion)
Looking at the start of a school year how do school leaders communicate expectations for building positive relationships with students? Building relationships takes some time commitment. What decisions would you desire teachers to be making concerning their use of time with students during the first week of school? What would you observe doing walk-throughs during the first week of school? What messages do you want students hearing? If you meet with students several days into the school year what perceptions of teachers would you hope they share with you?
Consider having instructional coaches offer to observe and provide feedback to teachers during the first week of school. In pre-conferences, have teachers describe the student experiences they wish to generate during these opening days. What are they hoping to hear and see from students? What specific teacher actions do they believe are critical to get the desired student engagement. What focus would they like the coach to have in gathering feedback valuable to the teacher?
What investments should be made to building positive relationships?