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Anxious and nervous - Used up all my stories, my jokes… time change? A year ago I was year and shared the importance of Starting With Strengths Today bigger picture… talking about the importance of connection. Not only connecting with the students we find easy to connect with but also those who can be a challenge. Where I come from – high school – science and technology 11, math 9A, math 11A I often taught students who, at first, my primary goal was to get to come to school… and keep coming to school. Find what makes them tick. Meet them where they are at. - come to school… and see value Help to snap that streak so they can walk across the stage with pride and dignity. Kent elementary – poverty, transient community. James Hill Today – lots of info, ideas, many of which you will likely already do. Some will be new and some will be reminders. Start with your strengths.. What you already do that works. Do more of this and build from there. We are going to start a bit differently today… I have a short activity I want us to do.
The message today is not a significant shift… a reminder of the WHY and HOW of relationships, strength, connection Slow down. Hit pause. Remember what is important. Students don’t say “remember that epic worksheet we did with Mr. Wejr?”. No, they remember the moments. How they felt. Keep this at the core of all that you do. In times of triumph, struggle… and through change.
Recall the story of Amy. Disengaged, disconnected. Apathy. Out of school, she was one of the top dancers in the Fraser Valley and a leader in my wife’s studio. Inside the school, she wanted to be invisible. Update on Amy – graduated. Continues to share her passion for dance as she volunteers and teachers young dancers. Moved quite quickly into a lower management position with Old Navy as they see her as a leader. When she was in grade 10, She gave me some advice that made me stop and think. Slow down, be interesting, be interested… be more random. When I pause to reflect… I think about when I started teaching over 16 years ago.
I used to think it was all about being interesting. I wanted to be cool. Pooka shells and frosted tips. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be the show. the show. Engage through performance. But now I think that it is not only about making school interesting but also about being INTERESTED. Slow down. Talk less. Let the students and the learning be the show. I can still perform and engage with excitement as a teacher and as a principal but this is only temporary engagement and connection. Real engagement and connection has to come from within, It is easy to be interesting. To try to be cool(ish). To try to perform. You control it. Harder and more time consuming to Be interested
We all know it is important to have some sort of relationship with kids. We have been told this before. We have lived it. They need to know they belong and that we care. But why is it so important NOW? There are so many reasons… but let me share a few. Let’s start with Mental Health
2011 Public Health Agency of Canada looked at health of young people. Looked at a variety of areas but part of it looked at life in school.
By grade 10, only 55-57% percent of students agreed with the statement “I belong at school”. What happens? Why? More students? This is hard to hear when I know how hard educators work. Who can change this? Can we just tell students they belong? No! We need to shift what we do, what we say, how we act. We need to create the conditions.
By grade 10, just over half of our students agree with the statement “my teachers care about me”. What happens to kids between elementary, middle, and high? I realize this is not just about school and other factors are at play. But we need to say – So, What. Now, what? Knowing this, what do we do???
From the report – there is a concern but also opportunity. This is not just a high school issue. We are all in this together. It must start in our elementary schools and carry through until grade 12. We have a huge responsibility but also we know we have a significant impact. We often do not realize our impact until years later… and with most students, we never hear about this. We do know…
We cannot teach a child without a connection. We can teach a curriculum, but to truly teach a students, we need a relationship. When we think back to our most memorable teachers, it is often the connections we remember. Consider how much time we spend with kids…
Carrie Gelson, a teacher in a Vancouver inner city school with extreme poverty - reminds us how much time we do spend with kids in her 6x5x10 13 years of this it is astounding to think how many moments we have with our students. We can talk about pedagogy, assessment, curriculum…but all of these mean nothing if you cannot connect with kids Considering this from a bigger level…
Connection is a human need. Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser say each child needs to be able to name 2 who care about them and believe they can be a success. How many of your students believe this. Ask them! Do we know who our students are? Do they feel worthy when they walk through our doors?
This is not just important for students. This is important for companies, organizations… society. An organizational culture of connection. School wide focus.
Remember your why. Why did you become educators? To make a difference. Connect.
That feeling of connection…
Many students are easy to connect with. They fit in, they share your interests. They have strengths that get acknowledged. I am not here to help you make connections with these students. The challenge is - how do we connect with those who are disconnected? Hollywood movies are made of this… teacher takes disconnected students to a place they love school. Not so easy. Before we talk about HOW to connect, we need to consider just who are we talking about when we say “disconnected”…
Who are they? Visible. Invisible. Disengaged. Non compliant. Unmotivated. They can Act out or shut down. On a losing streak. Quiet. Angry. Different. Lack connection with pretty much anybody in the building. Also – those that are simply DOING school… they have figured out the game but may lack a real connection to the school and learning. When they lack connection and act out, it makes it incredibly hard… we get so frustrated, we struggle to be able to teach… to be able to help all our students. But remember:
Think about this for a second… the kids who are disconnected need us so badly… but they show this in ways that often push us away. Saying all this…
So HOW do we do this? We know it is important… but what are ways we CAN do this as individuals and as organizations?
In my experience… and through my research, I have come up with 6 keys. There are more, there are endless ways to connect and build relationships but I will go through my big 6.
Reflect on Amy’s advice… advice from a disconnected student. Slow down. BE INTERESTED.
We make the time for what we prioritize. If connection is a priority, we will make the time. We can NEVER say, we do not have the time as this is the core of what we do. Many do this already. Don’t have time… story of colleagues son – watched Elf 4 times in the span of a week in the week leading up to Christmas. ideas - office hours, first five minutes (Nick Provenzano – a teacher friend in Michigan) casual convo 1:1-small group-or large group, simple check ins, lunch time chats, spending time together casually, no strings 10x2 – 2 minutes with a student for 10 days. Its possible… when we make time to connect a priority.
My vie principal and I – Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum Greet them every day. say hello and “its good to see you”. At my last school, all kids entered through the main doors. I had a chance to have a moment with every child, every day. Parents too. My current school, they enter through outside classroom doors. Teachers get to greet them but I struggle as I have to find other ways to connect throughout the day. Check in for attendance. Story of 2 teachers – greeter vs desk
A simple greeting Garbage men Fred Factor
When we greet them, we acknowledge them.. We show them they matter. Know their name. Know their interests. By greeting them by name and knowing even a bit of who they are. We show them they are valued each time they walk through our doors. There is no single way to make the time… we do not even need to be in the same physical space. We don’t even need to be in the same country. Use tech I showed this video in a session last year… Students wanting to speak English in Brazil connecting via video conferencing with seniors just wanting someone to talk to.
Shared this in a workshop here last year. Listen. Engage. Both parties forming and learning from a connection. Pay full attention… we are in a distracted world. My kids remind me to listen with my eyes
I love dogs… we have a bullmastiff. They are great listeners… especially if you are standing in front of the fridge. Give the kids full attention. My kids tell me this if I am doing something and not giving them attention while they are talking. Daddy, listen with your eyes. Talk less
Slow down. Be in the moment Be an active listener. When you are listening to someone, truly listen. Catch yourself thinking of what YOU want to say rather than actually listening. I often listen to respond, to solve the problem… most of the time, the only goal is to have people feel heard - JUST LISTEN. Here is a good reminder of this
If we truly listen, we can gain perspective. We can hear the stories of our students. For our disconnected students, we can take the time to seek to understand.
what is their (mis)behaviour or disconnection telling you? are they reaching out? telling you something? Separate the child from the behaviour. Show empathy. “I’ve noticed…. What’s up with that?” get to know the REAL person. Find out their story. With boys – walk n talk – do something with them. Dad and I chopping wood. Going for a drive.
Make the time. Listen. Spend less time speaking AT students and more time speakig WITH students. Less lecture. More conversation. When we do this, we create more safety – and learn so much more. When we make the time, listen, speak with kids… we build trust.
We cannot have a strong connection without trust. Be interested. Make the time. Listen. Talk. Build Trust.
best way to connect. Character strengths, strengths of skill. You have made the time, you have listened. You know their stories. Tap into their strengths for conversations. For lessons. For leadership. Use their strengths and YOUR strengths. As I shared last time, people are much happier, less depressed, less anxious and more connected to what they do when they have a chance to spend time in an area of strength.
Look for the strengths and good in each child. If you are frustrated with a student, Maybe look for the good after a glass of wine late at night…. Once you start to see the strengths, you can build connection Dear-dree - Symposium of learning at RL Angus Middle School
Recall the story of Dom. Disconnected, disengaged. It wasn’t until I took the time to be interested, to listen that I learned about his strength in drumming We used this strength to change his story at school… to create a strong connection to the school. Its not always easy to find the strengths in our students who are disconnected.
Rachel Macy Stafford Many of our students are Butterflies – shine from the outside – these are the ones we clearly see being successful in school. Their strengths are evident and embraced in school. She challenges us to find the fireflies – those that shine from within that we only see when the conditions are right? How do we create the conditions for more students to also shine and fly? We help them to LEAD.
All kids can lead. When they lead, they often flourish. More challenging with those who are disconnected. Not your typical leaders. Lead with character strengths – helping younger students. Don’t forget to use YOUR strengths too.
Coach. Run a club. Be a fan. Be a supporter. Rob Gallamore had some of the most difficult students in his grade 5 class every year at Kent. All year long, he would give up his lunches to run intramurals – hockey, flag football, skittle ball, basketball… he would tell me it was his most powerful classroom management strategy… he would encourage his most challenging kids to come out and play and he would connect with them there. He would have significantly less issues in his class because of this. Make positive connections - kids who want to be there. Through extra curric, you often form connections with families too. Rob would also have those he needed to connect with most… sit closest to him. After every transition, he would take a minute to check in. Connect. He would find successes to and always acknowledge them… he always took the time to buiild on and celebrate success.
Seek out the successes. Capture the good. We all have a camera nearby. Share it with others – the class, family or beyond (depending on permission) When you see the positive, acknowledge it… it often takes just a few seconds. Try to do this privately…
Make the time. Be subtle. High 5s. Fist bumps. Acknowledge. Call home. Notes home. Emails home. Friday 5 positive phone calls. Start with one positive. Start a NEW streak.
Our disconnected learners are often on a losing streak. For a variety of reasons, they have had setback after setback to the point where they likely don’t believe they CAN. Their self-efficacy is almost nil. When you find the good, acknowledge it, and do this regularly… you can build on success and change the streak.
I know I said it is so important to be interested… but we still need to be interesting. Be excited about learning!
Share your passions… your learning. Also be excited about content… about their learning. Reading? Chemistry? PE? Share your excitement… it can be contagious.
Let people know a little bit of who you are. Humanize yourself. my video, dogs, sports In a small community, more people know about you. Sometimes, though, we are seen as our title. A teacher first, a human second. And I apologize for this next slide… I work hard to get this song OUT of my head.
But we need to let go sometimes – love this photo. Embrace joy – don’t take ourselves too seriously! “never see them smile until Christmas” – may work for fear, for compliance… but not for connection. Use Humour. Laugh when its funny but know the line. Science and Tech 11 Be careful with sarcasm. Avoid ostracizing or putting them in a position of embarrassment. Kids never forget this. Create safety through humour. Take risks, make mistakes and laugh and learn.
engaging and relevant, purposeful Meet them were they’re at Why is your lesson important/relevant? How is it tied to our students’ lives? You will need this in the “real world” doesn’t cut it as connecting to kids. How much CHOICE do students have? Do they have to do a project on Egypt or can they choose from a list of countries? How much THINKING do we actually encourage? Do we slow down and ask the questions, create the conditions for the curriculum to also connect?
Piping and Plumbing program at LSS – kids that are disconnected when they get to high school, start in this program and never look back. Grade 9-10 and grade 11-12. Tapping into interests and strengths but also making it meaningful. Over half the kids who take this program sign up for apprenticeships before they even graduate. 9/10 students continue on in the field. This program was designed with the passion of a teacher and the interests of the students. Trades is just one example of relevance, meaning and purpose.
And I know that FNSS students recently got to explore the trades as well… What a great opportunity for kids. Trades and arts programs also really create a sense of belonging for students… which is the 5th key.
Included. Needed. Belonging, worth, value, Part of something bigger – part of a community. I am sure we have all seen Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.
Abraham Maslow in the 1940’s. Safety, love, belonging. Some criticism that there is no real evidence of the hierarchy – theory. But some criticism points that belonging is that much more important in our current societies. In the end, we need to know that we are worthy… that we matter.
And as Angela Maiers reminds us… it is so dangerous when we have the feeling of not belonging… not being significant… I heard an example of just how a few 5 year-olds have made a student truly feel like he matters in our school.
Story of Justin Struggles with personal space, social cues, self-regulation… Tends to wreck other kids stuff Teacher takes photos before it gets wrecked Kids built huge castle from blocks. Asked for the pic. Teacher went to get camera, heard, “Justin….. Nooooooo”. Justin wrecked it. Teacher pulled him aside for some instruction and restitution… girls invited him back. Will you be our wrecking ball? These kids made Justin belong… do we do this as a school?
Do we have student work showcased? Only the best or samples from each child at some point? This is about CULTURE. An inclusive culture. Regardless of ability, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, … we have to help EVERY student feel they belong? Consider the video that Leia showed about privilege… for those that were behind… are we ensuring they have a sense of belonging? How do we know? Have we asked them? Every kid needs to feel a sense of belonging if we want to have any connection with them. We can help with this if we lead with our heart.
When you lead with your heart you always look to do what is best for kids. You are interested. You include and create that sense of belonging. You learn their strengths. Last year, we had a grade 1 student that have a very serious heart surgery. After the surgery, she was not allowed to leave her home. The teacher got all the students and families together, wrote her cards, poems.. And all walked over to surprise her while she looked out her front window.
Leading with care. Kids are watching… and learning. We are always modeling.
A saying I love. How we teach becomes what we teach. What are we modeling? Are decisions made with in the best interests of students? I know we need to balance adult needs with student needs but we always need to ask this question… is this what is best for students or best for us? It all comes down to care…
Read the quote Relevant content and mutual care. Our students need us. They need unconditional care. As Rita Pierson tells us…
Great TED Talk. Every child needs a champion. Someone who they know deeply cares about them and will stand by them. Think of a student who appears to be disconnected. Who will be their champion? Who will be in their corner? Why not you? Alex came to our school in grade 5… was asked to leave his former school.
Disconnected, angry, frustrated, sad. Ripping stuff off the walls, swearing, fighting, he stole money from my desk. Didn’t want to be at our school. Ripping stuff off the bulletin boards and a staff member yelled down the hall – get him out of here… he shouldn’t be here. Only goal was for him to feel we cared and that he belonged. No matter what he did, we would tell him that what he was doing was not acceptable and that we cared. By leading with our heart, creating a sense of belonging, we were able to learn from Alex about his frustration with his inability to read. We used a wrap around approach, continued to help his reading, got him involved in sports and with a community support agency. Behaviour issues dropped significantly and was able to be in class the entire day completing adapted assignments. This is him way up in the mountains near Agassiz 18 months after he came to our school. Josh Shipp says that Every Child is One Caring Adult Away from Being a Success… Alex showed us this. Once he knew he belonged, he let us in, he let us listen. He let us show him we were interested.
When you do this… you can connect with any child. For many, you already do this. For some it will take time. They may push you away. t will take consistent effort but you will connect. This is easier with less students….
So how do we do this when we have many different classes with different students. Some teachers in high school have 100-200 students. Start with what we do well.
Start with strengths. WWW – what went well. What’s working well. You likely connect with MANY students already. Start by noticing these positive relationships
Start with ONE student that lacks a connection. James – teacher’s idea to connect through his strength of skateboarding. We met 2-3x a week as he attempted to teach me to skateboard. He still has some struggles but I have a connection. He no longer shuts down when I talk to him… he seeks ME out to share his stories,
Start with one student… take the time to consistently connect with one student that you lack a connection with. Look for strengths. Make the time.
Homeroom, Advisory groups – story of a failed school-wide attempt at Brookswood 15 minutes at the start of each week. Sole goal was for connections. Driven by a group of teachers. I LOVED it. A chance to get kids talking about important issues. Time to be interested. Attendance started to become an issue in some advisory groups. Some teachers complained that they were not trained to teach this. An opportunity lost… lack of understanding of the WHY. And the importance of this as a SCHOOL. But it CAN happen… we can look beyond what only one person can do and look to what a SCHOOL can do . Programs, courses to create relevance and align with staff and student interest. School-wide events
Langley Secondary is our high school. Lots of challenges. Large portion inner city. They focus on ton on culture. On belonging. Taste of LSS – connecting kids with kids – creating multiple opportunities for students to lead and for kids to feel like they matter and they belong. Embrace leadership opportunities. Kids helping younger kids.
every staff person comes in to write positive comments on students they have connected with... Every student gets a comment leadership students write the comments onto the hearts and post them by grade all up on the walls of our front foyer along with a bunch of balloons, decor etc. There is no other day that students come to school more excited. We need to shift our mindset…
My students to OUR students. Might not teach them this year but maybe last year or next year. Embrace past connections in the school. Tap into every opportunity to form connections with adults. We need to get past the ownership of kids. There is no cap when it comes to relationships. Tap into others. You cannot do this alone. You can start but to make a difference with many kids, we need to shift School culture… not just about what YOU can do but what WE can do.
We start with ourselves and using the 6 keys… Also look to shift school culture so more students feel valued, cared for, and feel like they matter. I want to share a video that shows how one teacher can use all these 6 keys to bring out the best in a disconnected student.
This is why we need to make connection a priority. We have all been touched by Alzheimers. This teacher made a difference to one student… who has then been part of a group who has made an incredible difference to many families of those struggling with Alzheimers.
If we think about the 6 keys, this teacher did all of these. He took the time to be interested. He started with strengths. He built on success. He was interesting as he made the learning relevant. He created a sense of belonging in the digital ethnography group. And he showed he cared and lead with his heart.
When we create the space and make connecting a priority. We can connect with the disconnected.
Remember your why. Make connecting a priority. Start with one student that lacks connection and connect with him/her each day. Our kids need us more than ever. Teach and lead from the heart. this is not just about YOU… it is about SCHOOL culture of connection – everyone doing this together. You cannot do this alone but you CAN start with one. Connect with the disconnected.
Concern: “As young people progress
through school, they are less connected to school, at a time when their emotional well-being is most vulnerable.” Opportunity: “Positive school environments and higher levels of teacher support are associated with more positive levels of mental health and lower levels of behavioural problems in young people.”
1. Be interested. Make the
time. Listen. 2. Start with strengths: theirs AND yours. 3. Celebrate and build on success. 4. Be interesting. 5. Create a sense of belonging. 6. Lead with your heart. 6 Keys to Connecting
1. Be interested. Make the
time. Listen. 2. Start with strengths: theirs AND yours. 3. Celebrate and build on success. 4. Be interesting. 5. Create a sense of belonging. 6. Lead with your heart. 6 KEYS to Connecting
HOW do we do this
with so many students? CC Image from Jack Lyons https://flic.kr/p/wTg4L