Knowing me, knowing you! Building Positive Learning Relationships with Children

Knowing me, knowing you!
Building Learning Relationships with Children
Is there one child in your class who gets to you for all the wrong reasons? That one child who pushes all the wrong buttons. The one that makes all your behaviour modification strategies look futile. My friend Katy once described such a child.
She said “He just takes me to a place where I don’t want to go!”
We’ve all met the little terrors! They come in all shapes and sizes from 7 to 17. However, despite their differences many of them share very similar features.
The similar features/traits means they are:
Usually boys
Usually bored
Usually on the SEN register
Usually come from the same area/estate /neighbourhood
Usually have siblings with similar traits
Usually from dysfunctional families.
Right! We all know the sort of child we are talking about by now – don’t we?
Think about their behaviour in your lessons. How do they make you feel? What is it that they do that makes you feel so hostile toward them? Usually if you could have one wish it would be for them to move far, far away (this is totally natural as we have felt this way many, many times ourselves) However, the Likelihood of them moving away is about as likely you winning the national Lottery three weeks in a row. So what is the answer? Picture this little angel in your head and ask yourself some of the following questions:

What makes them happy? Scared?
Where do they go on holiday?
Who is their hero?
Who do they look up to?
What do they want to be when they are older?
What’s their favourite colour?
What’s their favourite drink? Food?
Do they have any pets?
If they had a super power what would it be?
If they ruled the world what would they change?
What do they think of your lessons?
What do they think if you?

If you can answer ‘I don’t know!’ to more than three of the questions above, then you are doing that child a disservice! You’ve almost written them off before you have even got to know them. We know that it’s very difficult, at times, to find something endearing about the disruptive little whirlwinds, who attempt to sabotage your entire lesson every week. But if we give up on them – who will believe in them?

The key to getting them on your side is building positive, appropriate relationships. It’s truly amazing what you find out about them once you start asking. The trump card you have up your sleeve is yourself and your life outside of the classroom! They love to know all about you! It’s a brave thing to do but done correctly it can move mountains.

You don’t have to share you home address, credit card details or the names of your first ever boy/girl friends. But let them know the name of your dog, your favourite food, football team, where you like to go on holiday, what you wanted to be when you were their age.

For the bravest amongst you; you could (God forbid) tell them your first name; the names of you family members; where you went to school. It goes without saying if the information you share is going to compromise yourself or close friends then keep it to yourself.

Once they know you a little better you become more three dimensional. You become a real person not just a 2D image of a name on an exercise book or on their timetable.

When they enter your classroom next time hit them with:

“How did your game go this weekend Jake?” or “Sarah did you go your aunties’s party last night?”
It’s way better than “Jake stop that and sit down!” or “Sarah did you write up that experiment like I asked you to?”

Don’t get me wrong they still have to be accountable and ‘write up the things like you asked them to…’ but the odd friendly ‘humanistic’ comment does break the ice.

“Where do I get the time to ask all these questions?” We hear you cry: the answer is direct and simple ‘make time’ think about the wasted minutes some of us use trying to redirect negative behaviour. You can create chances walking along the corridor, whist on playground duty, on the bus during school trips, diary entries, play scripts in literacy, planning and budgeting a day out (Maths), circle time or the 3 minutes packing up time at the end of the day. Say to yourself I’m going to find out one thing new about ‘x’ today and I will impart one piece of information about me. Try it the results are astounding!

Lee and David (The Thought Weavers)

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela


15 thoughts on “Knowing me, knowing you! Building Positive Learning Relationships with Children

  1. Thanks for writing this post. I’m sure all of us would agree to needing reminding of this at least once in our careers. In those really tough moments, it can be easy to forget.

    Children really do love to know about their teachers too, you’re right. This year, I showed my class a DVD of me skydiving and I couldn’t have predicted the response. Questions, questions, questions! Oh, and they clapped spontaneously at the end! Children forget we are people too I think. I mentioned my dad once in conversation and some responded with, “your dad?!’ They were shocked to think of me as a child. I’ve also shown them pictures of me when I was their age (again, lots of questions) and some of them have met my sister, which they found funny! When my sister got married last month and I was bridesmaid, they almost demanded to see photos so I showed them some on the IWB. And get this, I told them the story of how my brother-in-law proposed (by wearing a ‘will you marry me? t-shirt at the top of the Eiffel Tower if you’re wondering!) and one of my girls used that exact scenario in a story she wrote in literacy. Quite touching in a way! My dad might be coming into school to help with something before the end of the year, which I’m sure will again provide another insight into ‘me’. Helping them see you as a ‘real’ person really matters.

  2. In many ways, these are my favourites (if you are allowed to have favourites)! We bleed for them, don’t we? But the system just doesn’t want to know…or provide the funds. We need extra teachers and social workers, but this is not the agenda tuned into by governments. I am sure it’s fairly universal …USA, UK, Australia for sure. At present we are half way through the school year here in Oz and it’s always a time of great reflection and angst as we assess how we are going with our much adored and very challenging students.

    Marg Yore

  3. After many years teaching, I have seen children as described come and go through classes both mine and others. It would have been great to be a teacher in Utopia School for Gifted Children but such doesn’t exist and probably wouldn’t be as interesting as succeeding with a difficult child.
    One boy in particular comes to mind when I think back. John* (now in his mid 30s with a young family) was such a boy. Disillusioned by the death if his mother through cancer when he was 10, having a father whose work never seemed to find him at home, he and his younger sister living with grandparents where grandmother loved him but grandfather partially blamed the children for the death of his daughter (their mother), didn’t set the boy in the right direction.
    Through the years, he always kept in contact with me. During troubled teens and into adulthood, he knew he could speak to me. His friends were stunned when, at 25, he invited me to his wedding. They said they couldn’t believe the only teacher he invited was his fifth grade teacher. Knowing I was a non-drinker, he also asked me to be the driver to take he and his new wife to the airport hotel where they would spend the night before flying out on their honeymoon.
    About a year back we were online (Facebook) discussing what had happened since our last contact. I mentioned teachers had said they would always select children carefully to be in my class. I was the TLC (Tender Loving Care) teacher. Children needing support and nurturing were always sent to me.
    He said, “Why do you think I still keep in contact with you. You weren’t a 9 to 3 teacher. I don’t know how I would have turned out had you not been there for me.”
    These days John runs his own small IT company, loves his young son and his wife. He has a Masters degree and a bright future
    There are many like John* out there whose lives can be turned around by those willing to take the time. This blog gives us some ideas. The rest is up to us.

    * His real name isn’t used

    I must have been doing something right in those years. Many Facebook friends are former students I taught when they were 7 to 12. I now share part of the adult lives through Facebook and love to see pictures of their growing children.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to write such a heart warming comment. Stories like these are what we believe keep educators going. In an age where the teaching profession lacks the respect it deserves, comments like yours will give everyone the resilience to keep going. We do make a difference and we do have the respect of the people that matter; our pupils now, in the past and in the future.

      Thank you again

      Lee and David

  4. I’m in the process of setting up a learning council at my school. It will be made up of just the sort of child you describe. Be interesting to see what feedback they provide for us on the curriculum and other aspects of school!

  5. I’m in the process of setting up a Learning Council at my school. It will be comprised of just the sort of child you describe in your blog. The aim will be for the group to give their opinions about the received curriculum and their wider school experience. It will be interesting to listen to their ideas and to see how we can feed their comments and experiences back into the curriculum for their benefit.

    1. Hi Ian,
      Thanks for your comments mate and best of luck with your Learning Council. A great way to bring all the youngsters together at the beginning of each meeting is a have a quick P4C question (Philosophy for Children). What is justice? What is a committee? What is learning? It will get them all in the debating mood (hopefully not the thumping mood) let us know how you get on we’d love to hear about your success.
      Lee & David (The Thought Weavers)

  6. Thought-provoking as ever Lee & David.

    I couldn’t agree with you more that getting to know such children on a more personal level is a way in to open their hearts and minds. My experience over the years is that putting in the leg-work almost always improves the relationship – and often as year group succeeds year group those “difficult” children are the ones I remember best. Strangely, where I haven’t succeeded in winning a pupil over, it has always been a girl – perhaps because I have sons???

    1. Great news Chris glad you enjoyed the blog. I pride myself on getting to know the children and their families really well; its heart warming when they come in on a Monday morning to tell you about an event they have been to – equally their faces light up when you tell them what you have been doing over the weekend. Today I have done something as simple as plant a small lavender bed in my garden and that will be a great topic of conversation tomorrow.

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