Defending Aleppo


Education Week – Teacher

Published Online: August 7, 2012

Five Practices for Building Positive Relationships with Students

By Kelley Clark

The objective is posted. The Do Now is ready to go. Your well-planned lesson is aligned with state standards, includes a variety of instructional methods, and offers opportunities for both summative and formative assessments.

What might still be missing? A strong positive relationship with your students, the kind of connection that makes them want to go above and beyond in your class.

Can you have a good lesson without having a positive relationship with your students? Yes. But …

Clark recommends and comments upon these five steps:

1) Leave yourself reminders on your laptop.

2) Never let the other students see you react inappropriately to a student’s comment.

3) Actually use the information you receive from a first-day student survey.

4) Schedule "bonding" time.

5) Finally, and most simply, learn your students’ names immediately.

Kelley Clark is a high school math teacher and member of the Teacher Leaders Network. She was the 2010 Secondary Teacher of the Year for Williamsburg-James City County in Virginia. She earned her graduate degree from the College of William and Mary and is currently a part of their clinical faculty program.
You can follow her on Twitter@kkssclark.

cited above


I opened and read this article this morning only to be discouraged by the minimal simplicity of the five practices, which seem to me only humane, and moreover by the promotion of these practices as something teachers, even new teachers, would not have been told, in case they hadn’t already figured it out, by colleges, colleagues or workshops.

Building relationships with students seems to be a natural, even automatic inclination for anyone interested in teaching. For the few who aren’t this sort of person, there was and should still be instruction in the importance of relationship building in introductory college education courses. AFT’s ER&D Foundations course has promoted and articulated a much deeper, research based set of practices to build relationship with students since its inception in 1981. The press, as in the case of Marzano’s articles and books, have preached relationship building for at least as long. John Dewey wrote about it nearly a century ago. Yet here we are teaching teachers to be humans at such a fundamental level.

Perhaps the new normal is understood to be the capitalist constructivist nature of our global economy, and education functions as component assembly for this knowledge industry. This norm has already begun to replace the humanities emphasis with the economic emphasis, humanity v. economy. Even so, the marketing side would tell us that the perception of being liked will increase our readiness to trust and purchase. So too with the students: “I like it that you’re being so successful on these otherwise mindless, heartless online tests.” And there is an academic return when students feel cared about, especially the most needy students. Of course, it is much easier to achieve this perception of being loved when the teachers really cares about her or his students.

And that brings me to the real question: Why would someone become and continue to be a teacher if they didn’t actually love the kids? Kids, all of them though perhaps not all the time, are so great it should be easy to care about them, and feel that they all deserve the best education. And they will give as good as they get. It turns out that when you want them to succeed, they want to succeed. They are the other half of the relationship. Care about students, and they will, as far as they are capable, care about you. Teach them because you care, and they learn because they care. This by the way is even more pronounced among distressed populations.

Clark may be right on target with her five practices, but if she is, it’s plain to see why American education is in trouble. If we need to be taught to teach with compassion, we must be suffering from a debilitating emotional ineptitude. Human emotions are assets, not encumbrances. Caring is purposeful in the survival and maintenance of the individual and community and species, but it seems it is becoming vestigial. Perhaps in a cut-throat economy, we can learn to live and die without caring.

Thanks, Kelley. Soldier on. I just hope you aren’t defending Aleppo.

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About Jay C Ritterson
If I say nothing, it might be that I have nothing to say.

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