Policing or Relating: how we interact with children

I was recently invited to give two cents to the strategic planning committee at my school. In exchange for my .02, I got to hear $100.00 worth of information and data on what children say about their school experiences. Turns out, they generally all say the same thing. They want to like their teacher and they want to have fun learning.

One of the most important things to the child in their school experience is the relationship they have with their teacher. Not that their teacher increases their test scores- it’s the relationship they have with their teachers. At least this is the data consultant folks are currently selling to the private school folks. This train of thought has me really thinking….

I started thinking about teacher’s relationships and connections with students. Often times in meetings or two cents events, conversations get sidetracked to what should be, what needs to be, or even worse, “let’s all agree on common definitions first” (my personal pet peeve) and you spend an hour discussing whether the words should read “all” or “everyone”. Whole group discussions are poor venues for semantics.

I started thinking of the teachers whose primary interaction and relationship with students was built on rule enforcement. If I were a meaner person, I could literally order them as to where on the line they were between enforcement and relating. And I would include policing as those who rate, grade and sort learners according to a number or letter scale.

Police, Relating

I started thinking about policing children as the primary way some relate to children.  Once I started thinking about it and looking for it, I found it everywhere. And this is in a school system without reward systems or filling buckets or dojos or star charts.

Then I started thinking about teachers I’d rate highly on the relational scale and their frequency of correction and rule enforcement.

When looking at hiring practices and trying to identify “good teachers” how often do we look at their relational qualities? Are they fun to talk with? Are they expressive? Genuine? Funny? Knowledgeable? Generous? These are the qualities of high relational value, especially to children, not their achievement in their SAT score.

I’ve always said I can identify a good teacher in less than 5 minutes. I’m increasingly certain of it. Turns out, so can kids.


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