In my new role as an Assistant Principal I often have the opportunity to work with students who act out for many different reasons. Instead of inflicting punitive measures against the child, I work to understand the behavior. I also spend time being proactive by trying to build relationships with students who have been identified as needing extra support and attention.
Building Trusting Relationships is the key to successful behavior growth for these students. Which in turn leads to academic growth. Relationship building takes time and intention. It starts with three simple questions:
What’s going on?
How can I help?
What are you interested in?
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending time with a first grade friend ( I will call him Robert).We were working on strategies to help him calm down when he starts feeling tense,angry and about to blow.Some of our time together was spent with him teaching me about motor-cross and the difference between dirt-bikes and motorcycles. We printed off several different coloring pages of dirt-bikes that he glued into a new Dirt-Bike Writing Journal. It was only fifteen minutes but I know it was fifteen minutes that gave him an opportunity to be heard,valued and to see me as a caring, trustworthy adult.
A few days ago I received a call from his teacher that he was having a very rough morning she asked if he could come visit me. A few minutes later Robert was standing in the doorway to my office.
“Robert, it is so great to see you!” I said with big smile. “What’s going on?”
Robert had a terrible morning at home and it carried over to the classroom.
Leaning in I gently asked ,“How can I help?”
Robert hung his head down and then slowly looked up and reluctantly whispered, “Can you print more stuff for my writing journal?”
“I would love to! Are you still interested in Dirt Bikes or is there something else?”
It turns out that Robert is also interested in Lego Ninjago guys. We found several characters he wanted printed off but the printer cartridge was empty. He helped me replace the cartridge. He wouldn’t let go of the old cartridge. He was studying it very closely then suddenly he shouted out , “Mrs. Duncan, Can we take this apart? I want to see how it works! I want to see what’s inside!
I had to say YES to that kind of excitement. Of course we can take the cartridge apart. I immediately found a screwdriver.Robert is also working on focus and growth mindset. He was so intrigued with taking the cartridge apart that he didn’t become frustrated when he had to try several different ways to get at what was inside the cartridge. He discovered springs, gears and plastic rollers. It was an amazing moment! He carefully saved the pieces and asked to bring them home.
Robert left my office with a big smile on his face. He was standing taller and had a sense of confidence about his abilities to focus and accomplish a difficult task. He was now ready to get on with his day. The empty printer cartridge wasn’t empty at all. It became a tool that gave a student and myself an opportunity to grow in our learning and understanding about what truly matters in education.