Relationships are critically important in classrooms and schools. Students must have strong positive relationships with each other and with the adults in the school. Relationships are the foundation of a successful school and classroom. Without healthy relationships learning cannot happen. Do these relationships between the adults and students have to be friendly? Not necessarily – but they do have to be mutually respectful.
That being said, the relationship must be positive for both sides. In the absence of a positive relationship, kids will hate going to class and can begin to associate that feeling with the content they are learning. Negative relationships can be a genuine barrier to learning. Taking it one step further, I think teenagers in particular need to perceive that they are not being treated as inferiors.
One of my greatest teacher skills is building strong, trusting relationships with my students. My students genuinely like me and enjoy being in my presence. They come to me on their own time to visit, to share successes, to seek advice or just to hang out. This is something I’ve always done naturally and done well.
So, here is my problem.
Though I naturally build positive relationships with my students, I sometimes struggle to leverage these into enhanced effort and focus.
Let me make it amply clear that I have no desire to manipulate my students. Far from it.
What I’m talking about is building upon the trusting, positive nature of the relationship to squeeze additional effort and focus from a student than they might otherwise give. I’m talking about the concept of the football coach whose players will “run through a wall for him” because they love, trust and respect him so much that his presence causes them to want to be a better version of themselves.
This is precisely my goal – to help students to become the best version of themselves that they can be.
I push myself daily to avoid asking my students to jump through hoops. I have no desire to leverage relationships into compliance. I want to leverage relationships to increased effort and focus. I want to leverage relationships into students being willing to try and fail and try again.
What I’m trying to wrap my brain around is how to maintain the type of relationships I have with my students while becoming more effective at pushing them do their best – or even better than their best.
When I’m able to do this with individual students, the transformation can be amazing. Some kids respond well to a well timed positive “pep talk” and take their learning to a higher level from that point forward. This takes too much time to be done effectively with a class of 30+ kids. I honestly think that if I had time to sit and talk with every kid a few times a week that they’d all be doing much better. Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury.