The best teachers have great relationships with students. Part of this can be attributed to who they are at heart, but part is also intentionally focused energy and effort. 6 things the best teachers (and educators in general) do are:
1. Set kids as the priority every day. As educators, we have many demands, pressures, and expectations exerted upon us. The best teachers understand that putting kids first can inherently accomplish anything else on the list. Test scores, standards, grades, motivation, behavior, and attendance are examples of things that can be increased by setting kids as the priority. What does this mean? Setting kids as the priority means genuinely getting to know kids, their strengths, interests, passions, aspirations, frustrations, backgrounds, and areas for growth, then acting upon this knowledge in planning for instruction and engaging students in learning. The best teachers know this transcends the content of any manual or basil reader (which can have value as resources and tools–just not end goals).
2. Treat discipline/behavior as a content area to support student learning. Just like Language Arts, Math, PE, Music, Foreign Language, etc., behavior is an area in which kids need our support to learn skills to grow. Math teachers do not send a student to the office if he fails a quiz, then expect an administrator to spend an hour or two teaching the concepts to him, call home, assign negative consequences, and expect the student to return with a positive attitude and ace the quiz; however, some educators treat disciplinary infractions this way. The best teachers meet students where they are behaviorally and accept the responsibility of supporting them as needed, just like they do academically.
3. Relish the opportunity to support student learning in the area of behavior. The best teachers know that working with students–and families–through behavioral infractions is a fast track way to building positive relationships. The disciplinary process provides teachers an opportunity to show kids they matter, and families they care. These situations take time, energy, and firmness; but so do teaching kids to read, understand fractions, and speak a foreign language. Educators who pass off these fast track opportunities to others not only pass off the opportunity to build and progress relationships, but often create just the opposite: adversarial relationships with students and families.
4. Recognize and celebrate positives (positively) disproportionately to negatives. Although the best teachers hold kids to high expectations, they still take the time to acknowledge achievements. They praise them, and also contact parents to share. This is very time consuming, but so is fielding negative calls from parents. The best teachers know this, and also understand the invested time yields much different results when placed proactively at the front end rather than reactively on the back end.
5. Remove teacher ego from student interactions. The best teachers always focus on student centered objectives when dealing with disciplinary and behavioral infractions. The root of the issues are addressed, and teachers support the skill in need. Incidents–especially disrespect and insubordination–are never compounded with punitive consequences because they were directed at the teacher, and are rarely outsourced for resolution.
6. Search for relationship building opportunities. The best teachers jump at opportunities like lunch duty, recess duty, hall duty, morning duty, after school supervision, extra-curricular supervision, and chaperoning. These environments are saturated with relationship building opportunities, as both parties can take off their “school caps” and engage on another level.
Perhaps this winter holiday can provide time for us to examine our priorities. If kids are not at the top of the list, hopefully this offers assistance with any necessary revision. Our kids deserve it.
What essentials would you add to this list? Please share.