***This post was written by Don Rentz, President and Scholarship Chair for WSPA***
We’ve all been at a meeting, cornered in the hallway, or in the teacher’s lounge and have been asked what to do with Johnny. The teacher has tried everything. Oftentimes we’ll utter some empathic statements about how difficult Johnny is, that there are no good answers, and background information on Johnny that lends to his problems. Then the conversation concludes with a statement like, “If I knew how to fix that I’d be a millionaire.” Undoubtedly, teachers are faced with difficult tasks.
Here’s the good news: We do have the answer. The answer is to establish positive relationships with Johnny.
Here’s the bad news: It’s not going to make you a millionaire.
So, now that financial reality has set back in, what about this positive relationships?
Positive teacher-student relationships have been shown to support students’ adjustment to school, contribute to their social skills, promote academic performance and foster students’ resiliency in academic performance (Battistich, Schaps, & Wilson, 2004; Birch & Ladd, 1997; Curby, Rimm-Kaufman, & Ponitz, 2009; Ewing & Taylor, 2009; Hamre & Pianta, 2001; Rudasill, Reio, Stipanovic, & Taylor, 2010).
Teachers who experience close relationships with students reported that their students were less likely to avoid school, appeared more self-directed, more cooperative and more engaged in learning (Birch & Ladd, 1997; Decker, Dona, & Christenson, 2007; Klem & Connell, 2004).
And the list could go on. Bottom line is that students (or anyone) will do more for teachers (or anyone) they like.
So, don’t forget to keep recommending those positive relationship building activities such as:
- At least a 3:1 positive to negative interactions with Johnny
- Commit to 2 minute conversations per day for 10 consecutive days with Johnny about something he’s interested in.
- Put a positive spin on requests (e.g., “I’ll be over to help you as soon as you return to your seat.”)
- At least 1 positive verbal interaction a day.
That’s it! Don’t spend your million all in one place.
This is one of the cheapest, easiest, and most efficient ways to intervene with students who present with difficult behaviors in school. It can seem like the most difficult intervention, though, as these students challenge us on a daily basis. Some days we have to be the best actors to ensure those positive interactions are taking place. I guess that’s why we are the adults. 🙂 Thanks for the great reminder, Don, about an intervention that should be the biggest tool in all educators’ tool bags!