While this post is called "Building Relationships," the reality is that all the work on Lead Teacher is designed to build better relationships in your classroom. This exercise is specially written to get students talking and listening to find unexpected commonalities. It goes over the kind of questions that make you excited to think, share, and listen. I wait many weeks (sometimes even months) to bring controversial classroom issues to the circle, because the kids need tons of practice and opportunities to connect before the relationships are challenged. While students are sharing in this lesson (and beyond) I am taking diligent mental notes during these opening conversations so I can show my students in small ways that I have gotten to know them better. Parents are really appreciative during conferences when I seem to understand their child beyond academics. That understanding starts right here!
Strong relationships at school help to create a community that kids feel loyal to and want to protect. We have the ability to build and maintain the kind of relationships keep students from seeking desperate and sometimes violent solutions to feeling alienated. Students who have experienced trauma thrive on strong relationships. Build trust slowly, quietly, and authentically... if things feel strained, they probably are. Plan opportunities to connect and share.