A personal connection is the best gift that a teacher can give to students, especially troubled or challenging ones. In fact, strong teacher/student relationships can curb discipline problems.
We know that the brain is a seeker of connections. When new information is given to students, nothing in the brain may take place until a connection or hook is made. For some students, cognitive connections are not made easily. The human connection can serve as the part of what provides a hook for persistence that is so necessary for success with these students.
A teacher is an encourager. In his article “Teaching for Intelligence: In Search of Best Practices,” Jim Bellanca stated it succinctly: “Teaching is a strategic act of encouragement.” Letting students know you care is the most important thing you can communicate.
Dr. Phelps Wilkins, former long-time principal at Eisenhower School in Mesa, Arizona, shared with me some questions he asked the staff to think about in their relationships with students, particularly those that require frequent discipline. As you read them, think about your most challenging youth.
Through my behavior:
- Does this child know he is safe with me no matter what happens—that he will never be ridiculed, put down, or made to feel small?
- Has this child experienced success in some meaningful manner on a regular basis in my classroom?
- Is the youngster developing a feeling of confidence?
- Does the child feel I have a personal interest in him?
- What have I done to help this child develop a feeling of power in her life?
- Does he know that he has the ability to effect the direction of his own life?
- Do I provide an opportunity for the child to have fun in school?
- Have I used kind words in my relationship with this person?
The more you work on the relationships you have with students, the fewer discipline challenges you’ll experience. Relationships are that important.