Friday, October 27, 2017


Every educator will tell you that teacher-student relationships are critical for establishing a cooperative classroom. However, what we mean by “relationship” can vary greatly. After all, most teachers and school leaders believe they have good relationships with their students. 

Some relationships are actually counter-productive to students' growth. Empathy about a student’s difficult life journey has caused many an educator to reduce or lower expectations that the youngster needs in order to persevere and overcome adversity. On the other hand, dogmatically driving students toward achievement, with no acknowledgement of their personal challenges or interests, can result in checked-out, disconnected students who appear unreachable.

Sometimes, the issue we think is related to the teacher-student dynamic is actually a hidden fear of student-student relationships, or a fear of failure, or shame about a personal experience, or trauma that has silenced a student or walled off his ability to respond. 

Developing effective relationships with every one of 75 to 150 teens per semester  (for middle and high school teachers) seems nearly impossible.

Relationship Hack #1:  Start with your whole class. Plan to share briefly.

How do you know that any person wants to know you and relate to you? They show you by relating an experience and sharing how they feel about it. Then you share something in response. Then they share something a little deeper or more important to them. Then you do. And so on. If you are open about your own life with your students, they will feel more like you want to know them.

Expert teachers do this by talking to the class in a comfortable, familiar tone. If you find it difficult to let down your guard in a natural way with your students, you can still build a relationship with your whole class in a more controlled approach by planning and sharing a short anecdote from your life each day: 

It’s that easy to show the whole class at once that you want to have more than a professional, distant, antiseptic relationship with them. It will be well worth the little time it takes to prepare each week’s list. I can see myself preparing a “share” for each day of the week on Sunday afternoon, or even on the drive to school each morning.

Don’t over-do it. You have a lot of teaching to do. One or two minutes is all it takes to send the message that you think about your students outside of class time, and you want to relate to them as people, not just students. 

Notice the difference in how individual students begin to reciprocate. They will try to pick up the topics you share in individual conversations with you. When they do, just smile. If all you say is, “Oh, really?” In an interested tone, that’s all most of them need to feel adequately connected.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

So glad . . .

you want to know more about our award-winning approach to public schooling!

You will want to start with an overview of Our Multi-leveled School-wide Discipline System

I have learned that most people, school leaders included, don't realize how much it takes to ensure the safe-keeping of hundreds of pre-teens or teens in a city school serving many families in poverty. Here's an at-a-glance image of our system of supports for all levels of student behavior:

I've provided at least one post for key components of our system, including directions for why and how to implement these components:

How School Leaders Can Help Teachers with Student Discipline

Five Good Reasons Teachers Avoid Discipline

What Rules Do We Need?

The Four-Step Classroom Consequences

Office Consequences for Step-Four

What It Really Takes to Establish Productive Classroom Routines

Discipline is Love. Say it Back.