Monday, September 15, 2014

Every Child Deserves to Have Someone Be Crazy About Them

Speak to anyone and they will name the teacher who made a difference in their lives. Whether the teacher was a source of encouragement to succeed and pursue opportunities outside of their comfort zone, someone who made them feel valued, or perhaps the person that rescued them from a harmful situation, the thing that all influential teachers have with their students is rapport.

 As the new academic year commences, we should remember that establishing rapport with each and every student is critical to students’ academic success and overall mental health. By seizing the opportunity to build rapport with each student, the teacher is validating the student’s importance in the school community. As a result, students may feel safer, experience a sense of belonging to a community, and be motivated to work hard in the classroom. Students who have rapport with their teacher feel safer to talk to the teacher regarding serious issues that may be impacting their physical or mental health.

I’ve learned through my experience that a great way to establish rapport is to greet each student individually by name when he or she enters the classroom. This lets the students know that they are welcome and you are excited to have them in the classroom. Rapport may be very easy to establish with some students, whereas, others may make you work for it. These students may have a history of behavioral issues, academic failures, or persistent issues at home. To make these students feel part of the classroom community, I advise new and experienced teachers to find opportunities for brief conversations. Talk with these students about general topics, not academics or behavior, to demonstrate that you, as a teacher, value what the students see as important. You may just find your name mentioned some day when someone describes the teacher who helped them reach their potential.

As the late newscaster Andy Rooney once said, “Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.”

Kate Nichols, Director 
McDowell Institute for Teacher Excellence in Positive Behavior Support

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