Saturday 13 January 2018

4 Strategies to Build Positive Relationships

 For the past seven years Through a Different Lens has looked closely at teacher practice that makes the most difference for students who are at risk of not completing school. 

After working with hundreds of teachers, thousands of students, and taking an in-depth look at the work with over 150 students that teachers have found difficult to engage, we can say with a great deal of certainty that the two most significant strategies that engage our students as learners are a positive relationship with the teacher and providing choice in various forms.  This blog will focus on strategies teachers have had success with in building positive relationships. 

We know that relationships are important and there is no short cut to establishing them.  Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser in the Spirals of Inquiry impress upon us that every child needs two adults that believe they will be a success in life.  We need to ensure all of our children and youth feel connected with some of us in every school community.  George Couros in his book The Innovators Mindset tells us there is no point trying out new strategies or new innovations, if we don't have positive relationships with our students. We need to know them.  We need to take the time.

So how do we do this?

Here are some things people are doing:

1. The 2 X 10 Strategy:  Choose the student that you are most disconnected with.  Spend 2 minutes of uninterrupted time with them for 10 days in a row.  Two minutes is a long time when they don't want to talk with you.  Persist.  Tell them a little about yourself.  Ask questions.  Listen to the muttering.  Be patient.  Smile.  Show interest.  See what happens over 10 days.    Teachers who have tried this strategy have found it to be astoundingly positive.  We would love to hear your stories.

2.  Sharing or talking circles:  This technique reflects the First Peoples Principles of Learning, and teachers who have used sharing circles to build community have found that students are amazed with how much they learn about each other, how much better they understand each other and support each other, and how much they learn about themselves.

3.  Meet and Greet:  We all want to be seen.  Think about the difference it makes to you when someone greets you by name as you enter the school in the morning or even just walking down the hall.  Now imagine the difference it would make to that student who feels invisible and is struggling to feel connected.

 4.  Tea Time:  This year two grade 6 teachers who were having some conflict in their classroom met with the resource teacher and counsellor to come up with ideas on how they might deal with the conflict.  In the end they decided to try something quite unique.  The counsellor had suggested that they really needed to get to know all their kids, that the more 'familiarity' they had with each student, the less difficulties they would have when a conflict arose.  So they brought into each of their classrooms a tea kettle and cups and every day after lunch while the students read they invite one or more students to have tea with them. They sit and engage in an open-ended conversation meant to build genuineness.   It is a chance to really let the students voice be heard.

After the first round, students were asking when they would have a second tea time.  It's a simple practice that requires no prep and can actually be a time for the teacher to slow down and pause in the moment with a student.  This just might be a win-win strategy!

There are no short cuts to a healthy and positive relationship.  It takes time, interest, energy, and sometimes patience.

As George Couros says it sometimes takes a change in mindset.  Building relationships with our kids is a 'privilege'.  In one of his blogs Couros writes:

"Honestly, I remember hating doing supervision.  Teaching was really overwhelming for me and every minute that I had to myself, I really appreciated.  Having to 'deal' with kids outside was a pain.  Then one of my administrators talked about the 'privilege' we had in connecting with kids during that time and that we should see it as an opportunity as opposed to a burden.  That totally changed my mindset on it early on my career, and after that, I loved supervision.  

I would talk to them about things happening, play basketball with them outside, and would actually walk back to my classroom rejuvenated.  This was not just kids in my class, but kids all around the school that I did not have the same opportunities to connect with during the day.  It became a privilege and an opportunity in my eyes and made my day so much better. Nothing changed other than my attitude, and sometimes that's the most important thing."
A good question raised the other day was and why not?  What do we have to lose by taking the time to get to know our students?  What is holding us back?

Submitted by the TADL team

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