There are few statements that so simply and succinctly communicate the critical role that a teacher’s investment in their students plays in securing trust and cooperation. Students can and will put forth their best effort to meet and/or exceed whatever expectations we clearly establish as long as they believe that we truly value and care for them as individuals. The question remains how to empower teachers with the beliefs, habits of mind and concrete actions to build the types of relationships necessary to effectively reach those students with whom they struggle the most.
The following tool was developed to engage educators in the process of deconstructing and analyzing existing relationships and strategizing how transform them into the type of relationships necessary to more effectively reach the youth that they serve.
The Relationships Dynamics Planner facilitates a process of unpacking and reframing those misguided beliefs that limit the teacher’s capacity to establish and build life-altering relationships with students. This is accomplished by deconstructing the teacher-student relationship into three guiding questions:
What are the teacher’s beliefs about the student?
What are the student’s beliefs about the teacher?
What are the student’s beliefs about what the teacher believes about the student?
Step 1: Recognize and examine existing teacher and student belief dynamics
After identifying a student, the teacher independently completes each of the three cells in the top row. This will reveal the underlying beliefs that are the very foundation of the teacher-student relationship. While the teacher may not have a sufficient understanding of the student’s beliefs to accurately complete the second and third cell, simply engaging in the process and hypothesizing a response from the student’s perspective will reveal much about his/her belief in and mindsets around that particular student.
Step 2: Analyze and reframe teacher and student beliefs dynamics
Now it’s time to examine the teacher input and guide him/her through the process of analyzing and unpacking how existing beliefs guide behaviors and impact the teacher-student relationship. Take the necessary time to identify and unpack any disempowering beliefs shared that clearly limit his/her capacity to build a positive life-altering relationship with the student. Once sufficient unpacking has taken place, it’s time to reframe each of the three teacher and student dynamics. Guide, challenge and support the teacher as he/she completes the Desired Beliefs row of the tool.
Tips: Some guiding questions and key ideas, words and phrases to consider when examining Existing Beliefs and unpacking/crafting Desired Beliefs are shared below:
Teacher beliefs about student: What underlying beliefs does the teacher have about the student? Are they deficit based or asset based; positive or negative; disempowering or empowering? At the very core should be a message of care that recognizes, values and honors student strengths and demonstrates an authentic belief in his/her potential to meet and exceed high expectations.
Student beliefs about teacher: Key ideas, words and phrases to look for when analyzing/unpacking and consider when crafting: caring, understanding, committed, expects and encourages excellence, supportive, welcoming, invested, fair, positive and uplifting, trustworthy and dependable, competent and prepared, predictable and reliable, positive and optimistic, respectful, good listener, unwavering advocate for students
Student believes teacher believes about them: Key ideas, words and phrases to look for when analyzing/unpacking and consider when crafting: is worthy of being loved, valued, and entrusted, brings unique perspective, qualities and strengths that add great value to the classroom and school community, is capable of meeting and exceeding high expectations, has valid points of view, will one day become an agent of change.
Step 3: Bridge gap between existing beliefs and desired beliefs
Now the teacher and facilitator are ready to identify and document specific steps that will lead to more positive, meaningful teacher and student belief dynamics. The idea is to bridge the gap between Existing Beliefs and Desired Beliefs. What specific actions can the teacher take to add to, build on, and, if needed, transform each of the three teacher and student relationship dynamics?
As the experienced educator it is highly likely you will need to provide most of the action steps. This is particularly necessary when working with educators who may not have had the life experiences to truly understand the depth, complexity and underlying nature that constitutes high-impact teacher-student relationships.
Leading a large group through conversations around relationships? Supporting a colleague who is struggling to connect with a particular student or class? Perhaps, there’s a student whose behavior you find particularly challenging? This simple yet comprehensive tool will help you deconstruct, rebuild and fortify meaningful, life-altering relationships with those student who likely need those relationships with you the most.
by Richard Frank, CT3 Managing Associate and Partnership Manager
- Caring About vs. Caring For
- Asking the Right Questions
- 10 Outside-the-Box Relationship Building Strategies Beyond a Student Survey
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