Developing strong and positive relationships with the adults in school is crucial for students’ academic success and emotional well-being. However, fostering these relationships can often be more challenging than it appears. So, what strategies should educators employ to cultivate positive connections with students and colleagues? Adam Saenz, a psychologist and author of The Power of a Teacher, provides some guidance on this matter, which he recently shared at the Texas Computer Education Association convention in San Antonio.
According to Saenz, building relationships can be broken down into four essential components: reflecting, directing, connecting, and protecting.
1. Your mindset plays a vital role, and you have control over it.
Teachers who are dissatisfied with their jobs cannot establish and maintain healthy relationships. While many factors may be beyond their control, they can control their mindset. Therefore, the first crucial step towards building relationships is taking the time to reflect on their mission and purpose, and focusing on how to effectively navigate their current circumstances. It is about making the most out of their situation and living their lives to the fullest, in spite of any challenges that may arise.
2. Emotions serve as fuel. How you channel that energy determines the success of your relationships.
Emotions serve as the driving force that propels individuals into action. Even negative emotions, such as fear or anger, can motivate people to take necessary steps to protect themselves or bring about positive changes. However, emotions can also fuel destructive and unhelpful behaviors. Expressing emotions inappropriately or allowing them to drive negative conduct can hinder a person’s ability to establish healthy relationships. Emotional intelligence, as Saenz suggests, involves effectively channeling and managing emotions in one’s life. Directing emotions in a positive manner requires identifying negative feelings, understanding the behaviors they trigger, and choosing alternative, positive responses.
3. Connecting with individuals who are different from you.
According to Saenz, it is natural for people to feel more comfortable connecting with individuals who share similarities with them. However, teachers do not have the luxury of forming relationships solely with like-minded individuals. It is essential for educators to connect with students, regardless of their differences, in order to build meaningful relationships. Saenz emphasizes the importance of non-contingent communication in establishing these connections. While contingent communication focuses on tasks and business-related matters, non-contingent communication is about engaging in conversations that go beyond these practical aspects. For example, asking a student about their weekend activities or where they acquired a new pair of shoes can help foster a deeper connection.
4. The significance of setting boundaries.
Establishing boundaries is crucial for relationships to thrive. These boundaries may vary depending on the nature of the relationship. Saenz suggests that regardless of the specific boundary, the process of setting boundaries remains the same. It involves clearly defining one’s limits, practicing open and respectful communication, and seeking support when necessary. It is important to anticipate some resistance when setting boundaries, as certain individuals may test these limits. In such cases, seeking support from a third party, such as a friend or administrator, can be helpful.
In summary, building and sustaining positive relationships with students and co-workers requires careful attention and intentional effort. By reflecting on one’s mission and purpose, channeling emotions effectively, engaging in non-contingent communication, and setting boundaries, educators can foster trusting and supportive relationships within the school community.