Wednesday, March 9, 2011

relationship building

Due to frustrating internet problems at home and blogging accessed blocked at school it's been quite awhile since I've had a chance to write and have it actually upload from the computer to the internet.  We'll see if tonight is any different...  

All year I've been struggling with my relationships with one of my kiddos. He's a great kid- but one of the few kids in my teaching career that I feel like I just haven't connected with.  In the beginning of the year I was so caught up with PJ that this little one didn't get what he needed.  When I did work with him I didn't take enough time to develop a relationship- I immediately focused on setting limits. Which of course all children need, but it's hard to motivate someone to accept your limits when they don't really care about you one way or another. I didn't give him a reason to listen to me other than he'd be in trouble if he didn't. And he was always in trouble anyway, so why was I any different?

I usually pride myself on the relationships I build with children. Typically I feel like it doesn't take me long before I've found a bond with each individual child and that bond drives the rest of our working relationship. It's March and I still haven't formed a bond with this little one.  We've had our moments when we've clicked- he's been on and I've been on and the work he's produced has been great. But it never carries over to our next session. I come in the next day ready to pick up where we left off and we might as well be strangers. 

The other day at recess he found half a broken jump rope on the playground and he tried to organize kids to jump rope with him.  Since this is a huge difference from playing in the dirt by himself I came over to help. I turned one side of the rope while he turned the other and we let kids take turns jumping in the middle. He and I literally had to be a team to get that broken rope under the jumper's feet (and if you've ever turned the rope for uncoordinated kindergartners you'll know that is no easy task).  Suddenly we weren't teacher/student anymore but true partners. The next day in class he returned to his normal behaviors of avoiding me, but on the way to recess he asked if we could jump rope again. Finding that the broken jump rope was gone he spent the rest of recess trying to pick the lock on the equipment shed to get another rope. Clearly he enjoyed his jump rope experience.

A few days later I managed to secure a jump rope from the gym equipment, swearing on my life that I would take care of it and not let any kindergarten students drag it through the mud/lose it/strangle one another with it/etc. Out at recess my friend and I ended up with a long line of kindergartners taking turns to jump rope while we turned. And my friend is actually a really good turner. Because he's such a caring kid he let other kids take turns turning, but frankly, none of them lived up to his talent. At the end of recess he gave me a high five. And not the half-hearted-I'm-only-high-fiving-you-because-I-have to. And honest to goodness, I'm-excited-high-five. The next day in the classroom he was just a bit more open to working with me. It wasn't a huge change- just subtle body language that seemed to show acceptance instead of dread.

I plan to keep providing the jump rope for him at recess when I can make it out there. I hope it keeps up. I'm not expecting this to change everything, but I am willing to accept even the smallest step toward building our relationship. Every little step is an improvement we can keep building on. 

Whenever we want our jobs to be clear cut and business like we get reminded that they just can't be. I spent months in the beginning of the year trying to apply my own model and structure to this little one when I'd never taken the basic step of opening that initial relationship with him. Now, months later, I need to slowly build what I should have created in September. This has been such a good reminder of the importance of truly knowing our kids and taking the time to let them know we care. 


Anonymous said...

This is a fascinating post. It took me way back to the '50's when I was a school child. Not once did I ever have a "bond" with a teacher. Not even remotely. That worked for me, as I didn't need a bond in order to buy into school. And really, with upwards of 35 children in each class, the basic strategy had to be that: expect kids to buy in even if the classroom climate is somewhat impersonal. On top of that, since this was a relatively stable community, the bonds we did form were with our classmates, whom we could expect to spend 8 years with, rather than with teachers. When I taught school in the '70's, I expected to be able to operate on the same principle, and that kids would be able to operate in a somewhat impersonal atmosphere w/o the need for me to "woo" them with attempts to form a unique bond. Of course, some kids always seek that bond, and if they take the initative that way, it's easy and not time consuming. Others don't and seem fine with it. But even then it was clear than an increasing number of children would resist school unless you "unlocked" them. That is even more true today, especially with lower income kids. What a burden for teachers to understand and accept this new responsiblity!

magpie said...

At one of the first footy games my son was involved in all 20 boys, while walking hurriedly to the playing field, suddenly started skipping. I thought it was fantastic:)