Interesting topic in my Admin class, tonight. We were asked, “which do you feel is most important in education: curriculum, behavior or emotional engagement?” If we had to choose one, where would we put our resources? Luckily, my group agreed before the question was even done being posed. Emotional engagement!! What would you choose and why?
I chose emotional engagement because I see this as the cornerstone on which everything else is built. If a person’s emotional needs are not being met, it is really hard to access everything else. In this, I am not only talking about in the classroom, but on a school site, at the district level...but most importantly in life. Humans are wired for social connection, no doubt. When people, all people, feel a connection, feel valued, feel worth...they will grow, improve and bring others along in that journey.
In terms of students, if a student doesn’t feel that you, as the teacher, are invested in them, they will not be invested in you. If you can connect to students (and connection will look different with each kid), they will respect and behave for you. They will be more open to listen and engage in the curriculum. Without this important piece, I feel that the other two will be out of reach.
Students, just like all of us, want to know that you care about them. They want to trust you and connect to you. How does that happen? Is there a class? A curriculum? A magic “box” of lessons with a script to follow entitled “How to connect with kids”? Nope. Just like there is no manual when you become a parent, there is no manual on how to build relationships. The reason is, if it is inauthentic...robotic...fake..people can smell that a mile away. It needs to come from the heart. Children are quite intuitive and they know if you are being true.
Are there steps you can take, to help foster these relationships? Of course, many. They are the same steps to build any relationship. Connect, communicate, care and trust. How you do that, is up to you. I know that seems like an impossible task if you see a kazillion students in a day. But, the thing to remember is, that sometimes even the smallest gestures, make the biggest impact. A simple “high five”, a smile, a question “how is your day going?” (and listening to the answer) could be just what that student, that person, needed.
Do I have the answer? No, I just have my opinion and what I believe in my core. Through all facets in my professional and personal life, it’s these authentic connections with people that matter. If someone feels that you care, you value them, they will give you that in return.
So whatever your leadership role is: teacher, site leader, district leader, leader of your family, leader of a team...In my opinion, the key is relationships...real ones. Are you a leader, if you turn around and no one is following? It is these relationships and trust that cause people to follow. More importantly than “follow”, join in on the journey. Care, listen, validate. It takes time to build this; but you can only build it through your actions. Lip service can only go so far. Show...do...act.
So let me rephrase the question from my class: “What do you feel is most important when dealing with people? Why?” We are in a people business, the people we impact are our “customers”.
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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