To build positive relationships with your challenging students, teachers need to demonstrate an active interest in their lives, really listening to their thoughts, opinions, interests and silences.
You may only spend a few minutes talking to a student, but actively listening to them for those few minutes helps to build trust and mutual respect. The cup of coffee can wait. This is important.
Rob Plevin, in Magic Classroom Management, describes active listening as
“an effective way of showing that you value a person’s opinion.
We demonstrate we are listening by making eye contact, stopping other activities so that we concentrate fully on what is being said and respond to what is being said with nods, gestures and verbal cues.” (p.48)
As teachers, we are important figures in our students’ lives, and the attitude we express towards them through our incidental conversations can have significant, often invisible impacts on their attitude, learning and personal development. By actively listening to our students, we treat and value them as people, not as insignificant “little brats”.
Never forget that challenging students are still children, and deserve to be respected and valued as such. It is easy to fall into the trap of reacting to the behaviours after they occur. Actually working to identify and counteract is difficult, but rewarding in the long run. Actively listening to your students is a simple first step.
The Final Word on Relationships
For more information and advice on developing teacher-student relationships, I highly recommend the “Stepping Stones to Positive Relationships” series on the Behaviour Needs blog.
I’ll also leave this topic on a note of caution, bearing in mind my initial naivety and inexperience as a beginning teacher. As teachers, it is important that we ensure our relationship-building efforts and teacher-student interactions are entirely proper and professional, and not liable to misconstrued or misinterpreted.
It is important to understand the relevant school policies and procedures, bearing in mind your legal responsibilities and duty of care. If you consider yourself uninformed, I’d suggest you talk to Admin, or contact your Union. I’ll certainly be doing so shortly.