Let’s get to the first of the strategies. We’re up to Stepping Stone 2 – ‘Best Relationship Builders’. There will be quite a lot coming so I wouldn’t bother filling in the sheet just yet – wait until you’ve seen them all and then pick your favourites.(If you haven’t downloaded your ‘Stepping Stones to Positive Relationships’ desktop reminder yet you can download it from here: www.behaviourneeds.com/resources/
Feel free to add your own strategies to the comments beneath each post – there are thousands of people reading this so between us we should be able to come up with some great ideas!)
I’ll kick us off with a few…
1. Ask them for advice
Being asked for advice on a topic you know about is a great compliment and we all love to be able to show how much we know. There are some fairly generic topics for boys and girls – asking a teenage girl for advice about make-up, hair styles, decent clothes shops in town and, dare I say it, ‘shoes’ (sorry, I know it’s sexist but stick with me) will generally create some interest and serve as a conversation starter. Similarly, most boys will respond to questions about football/sport in general and technical issues. There aren’t many kids who won’t jump at the chance to give you advice on the music you should be listening to, or the best computer game to buy.
These are sweeping generalisations – I’m aware of that. Taking the time to find out particular strengths of individuals and asking them advice on these specific topic is obviously better.
2. Referral Marketing
If you are struggling to make connections with a particular student but you know of a colleague who gets on very well with them, get your colleague to introduce you. Businesses use referral marketing all the time – because it works. If the student trusts the judgement of your colleague, a joint meeting can be set up where the three of you can sit down and discuss ways to help the student succeed. Barriers normally come down after this initial meeting.
Break times and lunch times are a fantastic relationship-building opportunity. A friend and colleague of mine would never venture into the staff room in his free time. He spent break times and lunch times in his room with his door always open. Students came in to play chess and board games or just to chat; he rarely had a problem with classroom management. His reputation as being ‘there’ for the students had spread throughout the whole school and they all knew him to be fair, and he was respected for that.
Reputation is key in relationship building: students talk, your reputation spreads. Do you ever wonder why some teachers can walk into a room of rowdy students and get them all silent without even saying a word? It comes down to their reputation. If you show that you are there for the students, willing to listen to them, interested in them and available for them, they grow to respect you. The more students who feel like this about you in school, the wider your reputation spreads. Peer pressure, as we all know, is a very powerful thing. I’m sure you can see where this is going.
Eventually you can get to the point in school where the vast majority of students respect you and like you. From this point forward, peer pressure becomes your ally. Few students want to upset the trend by doing anything in class to annoy you. Building relationships becomes easier as students are swayed by the majority – and actually WANT to be on your side.
Of course, we are not only concerned with the majority. Sadly, some students do get left behind and choose not to run with the rest of the pack. It is these who often resort to causing problems in order to get attention or to attack a system they feel is against them. These students need extra attention if we are to reach them. We will cover strategies to do this as we move on.
4. Connect with the written word
Marking work can be a chore but it’s also another opprtunity to connect, to strengthen bonds or to begin to communicate with students who don’t like engaging in conversation. The following comment, for example, was a note I placed in the file of a boy who was visiting his father for the first time in several months. He was apprehensive about the visit, this was a quick way of giving him a bit of support. Often students respond to such comments and a ‘Post-It Conversation’ develops. As does the relationship.
Here’s another example along the same lines. It’s part of a post I found on a forum several years ago from a parent who was very worried about her fragile, withdrawn young daughter, Megg, who was starting at a new school…
We waited anxiously for her to return home that day and asked her the inevitable question: “How’s your new teacher?”
“Pretty nice. Her name’s miss Nunes. She smiles a lot – and she smiled at me. She said she liked my new shoes.”
Each day that week, Megg shared tales of Miss Nunes. She was beginning to enjoy school again. She smiled at supper and she laughed when getting dressed for school. She ran to the school bus. We were cautiously optimistic.
Friday evening, Megg went to her room to do her homework. Within five minutes she ran to the kitchen, beaming.
“Look Daddy,” she said. “Look what Miss Nunes sneaked into my maths book.”
Miss Nunes had secretly placed a note between the pages so it fell into Megg’s lap when she opened the book. It read:
“You had a great first week Megg. I think this will be a good year for both of us. See you MOnday.
PS I love your shoes!”
Maybe she did that for every child in the class but the point was that it made them feel special and it helped turn our fragile little girl around.”
In the meantime please leave your comments and ideas below this post.