You’ve Gotta Connect: Building Relationships that Lead to Engaged Students, Productive Classrooms, and Higher Achievement by James Alan Sturtevant

2. Acceptance: It’s Not the Kids; It’s You

  • As a teacher, you may find that you have adult friends who hold young people in low regard. (Some usually show up in the teachers’ lounge.) It’s your job to look through what bothers other adults and accept your students as persons. You don’t want your attitudes, fears, judgements, and biases, to get in the way. The main idea is to pay attention to your behaviors that show acceptance or nonacceptance. Keep in mind that the one thing you can control is yourself, your viewpoints, attitudes, and behavior.
  • Start by examining yourself. Examine your attitudes toward this generation as well as individuals. Do you have nostalgic ideas that are getting in the way? Beware of people who might negatively influence your attitude. Recognize your biases and take steps to get beyond them. This might include how you feel about how students treat each other; their manners, language, attire, gestures, appearance, parents, and interests. Do you act annoyed or disgusted? Do you often approve of some students but not others? Do students know who your favorites are?
  • You need to be realistic and take a good look at every student. Beyond behavior and appearance there is a person. Try to feel what it is like to be in their shoes. Find out their viewpoints, priorities, and interests. Find out what drives and inspires them, and look for their gifts.

3. Communication: What You Say (and How You Say It) Matters

  • It is vital to greet students when you see them in a manner that implies you are happy to see them. Singing a hello is better than just saying hi, and always smile. Use body language that says the same thing. Brief dance moves can work even if they make you look a bit silly. James gives many specific ideas here. If it’s a one to one greeting, try to mention something specific about that student. Styles, music, slang, and entertainment change, so try to keep up to date. This includes knowing how they use social media. See how you do on the 2013 are you staying hip test. (pp. 82-83)
  • Get to know what you can about each student. This will be easier with some than others so keep prying in a gentle way. Consider using a student survey to learn about each individual. Persistence and patience are necessary. Be observant and model good listening skills. Be polite and respectful and don’t yell. As for what to say and not say, the lists on p. 91 are a big help. You might want to try to make your own list first.
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