Sunday, August 25, 2013

Buzzword: Relationships

Buzzwords: Those key phrases or concepts that trend in and out of education. It's the "here today" and perhaps, "gone tomorrow" nature of our profession and likely other professions, too, that dictate our conversation and our efforts in the classroom. Yet, one buzzword that's experienced a huge renaissance, not because it ever went away, but because of its relevance and importance to the changing landscape of education is relationships. Strangely, I think our technology craze is actually driving relationships back to the forefront of the "buzzwords you need to pay attention to" list. As our own Director of Technology Bryan Weinert says:

The best "device" has always been and will always be the teacher #iledchat

We are the best devices. And the best thing a teacher can do to facilitate buy-in is to invest in who their students are. We hear this a lot on Twitter and in education circles. "Get to know your students and learn about their interests," etc. But unlocking the code to the most successful student/teacher relationships goes a bit deeper than that in my opinion. 

1. Let the kids know YOU work for THEM. 
We all work for someone and often times, many different people. But teachers who solidify relationships with their kids work for their kids. They stay after school to help a student. They answer emails late at night to clarify any questions. They write personalized letters of recommendation. They are attentive to any student needs even in the (gasp) summer. Our students should know we work for their successful outcomes and in turn, they are empowered knowing that someone is laying it out on the line for them. It makes them want to work that much harder for you.

2. Err on the side of the student and you can rarely go wrong.
We've all been there. No one likes to talk about it, but everyone can relate to it. 

The bus arrives back at school from the road game around 11pm at night. The last kid waiting for their parents admits he doesn't have a ride. After I ask a bunch of questions, the kid says, "It's no big deal, I will just walk home."

Its 7 degrees outside. There is a foot of snow on the ground. We all know where this is going.

We never seek out situations like this. In fact, we should take any and every measure to prevent them from happening. Whether that be parent meetings, phone calls, or constant reminders to kids about communicating with their parents, its our obligation to protect ourselves professionally. 

Adults in our building give money, clothes, cell phone numbers, keys and countless other things to students all the time. In doing so, they are taking a risk. Ultimately, how influential we are will always come down to positive intentions, and if we are erring on the side of the student, the reward is a relationship that may just turn their life around. 

3. Successful relationships start with listening. 
Ten years ago, my favorite college professor Rev. Steven Avella gave our class some "college style" advice when he said, "If you ever want to be the life of the party you are at, just ask people about themselves. They will be more than happy to talk to you." That can be so true. But as teachers trying to build successful relationships with our students, we listen. We allow students to talk about themselves. When a student visits my classroom after school, they usually aren't looking for advice, no matter how eager I am to give it. They're just looking for someone they can trust and who will listen. The most successful relationships with students are built on this foundation. 

No comments:

Post a Comment