What do I do once I have damaged that relationship? This question was born out of a recent conversation with a student-teacher in my building. It was a great thought and one that every educator should be considering. I have to imagine that even the best managers of classrooms have messed up and damaged a relationship with a student before. We’re human, after all. So let’s set the stage a bit. That one student who has been tip-toeing the line for several days or even weeks, decides to jump over the line head first one day. The irritation overcomes you and you lay down some punishment. The next day the student comes in with a chip on his/her shoulder and you are forced to dig deep into your toolbox in a relentless search to engage that student, but your efforts are to no avail. So you’re left wondering, “how long will he/she come to my room with a negative attitude? Do I just let this student have his/her space? If I ignore them, I’m afraid they’ll just distract others.” Chances are, they will distract others. That student is seeking an audience and will do what they can to pull more students to their side (there are sides now, you know). So what do I do now?
Let’s say for sake of this post, this student is Jeremy. This, in my opinion, is the best piece of advice I can offer to the teacher in this situation: DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO PREVENT MORE JEREMYS FROM APPEARING IN YOUR CLASS. Right now, you’ve only got one Jeremy. But, if you do nothing, more will appear. So what can you do to prevent Jeremy from multiplying?
No doubt, in this situation, Jeremy already has some followers or at least some people that may be considering joining the fold. You better seek those students out like a Sidewinder missile! Now, you have to do more than identify them. Start recognizing anything even remotely positive that those students are doing in your class. “I appreciate how you came in and got your stuff out so you’re ready to go, great job man!” “Hey Daniel, I’ve never seen someone persevere over one problem quite like you have! Way to go!” “Chasity, thank you for picking that pencil up off the floor for me!” With each of those praises, you look them in the eye and dap, shake their hand, or high-five. Make a positive contact if possible.
Next, go the extra mile. Don’t just rest on a positive praise that requires 5 seconds of your time. Write those students a handwritten note and deliver it to them. Make a phone call home and tell mom or dad how much you appreciate that specific behavior you observed in their child. You want those behaviors to continue, right? Then put in the effort. It’s worth it! Meet those students as they arrive at school early in the morning. Talk to them. If your schedule permits, see them at lunch and sit with them, talk to them. Great relationships with tough kids don’t happen by accident. If you’re willing to do the things few educators are doing, you’ll reach the kids few educators are reaching.
If you follow through with these actions, chances are great that you have done well to prevent more Jeremys from appearing your class. Read my next post to determine what to do with the original Jeremy.