Are you striving to create a warm and inclusive learning environment? A place where children feel a deep sense of belonging and are motivated to meet high expectations? In my experience, building connections no matter what is a critical foundation that will allow you to go way beyond what you can accomplish with basic (though important!) behavior management or classroom management skills.
"Building connections no matter what" is a teaching stance that emphasizes the importance of embedding positive interactions and authentic relationship-building with each child. It's about engaging with children just because, no strings attached. Showing them that your care is not contingent on their behavior.
One effective strategy for connections is to attend to your ratios of positive to negative interactions. Keeping them at least 5:1 positive:negative is a key aspect of being a "Warm Demander." In this strategy, the focus is on "warmth". By prioritizing strong and trusting relationships with children, they are more likely to participate in and follow the high expectations you set and hold for them.
The idea is simple, but not always easy: aim for at least five positive and authentic interactions with each child for every one negative or corrective interaction. It's all about "connection before correction." All individuals, regardless of age, are more receptive to critical feedback or correction when they know the person giving it genuinely cares about them. Building a strong foundation of trust and connection is key, the message is that a child knows you are there for them - no matter what.
Positive interactions can include
A seemingly small shift in perspective can yield significant results in terms of student engagement, behavior, and academic progress. Bring this strategy to life by using this tracking sheet to monitor your interactions with students.
As you explore the concept of 'building connections no matter what,' we invite you to deepen your understanding and practical application through our comprehensive course and live, ongoing support. Members of our Positive and Engaged Learning Community foster positive relationships, enhance classroom dynamics, and elevate student outcomes. We go in depth on these ideas with a ton of examples.
In the meantime, connect with us to share your experiences and reflections, and let's together make a lasting impact on education. We look forward to hearing your insights.
I’ve been quiet because I’ve been working on a new kind of PD to support teachers in building strengths-based, child-centered classroom management skills: the Positive and Engaged Learning Community.
This professional development experience is a unique combination of:
I created this course because I visit a lot of schools, and see the same needs for classroom management support in all kinds of environments, but constrained by the day-to-day demands of teaching, especially for newer teachers. To get this support out there quickly, I’m offering a launch special that includes both the community coaching and the on-demand course for the same price as the on-demand course on its own.
All the details and registration are here. If you have any questions, please reply or set up a call. The launch special will be available to a limited number of participants, but I hope anyone reading this will explore this big idea from the Positive and Engaged Learning Community, whether you join officially or not:
As educators, our own ‘stuff’ influences - consciously and unconsciously - how we create community.
As educators and administrators, we're committed to fostering a strong and inclusive learning community, many of us have studied Positive Behavior Supports, read books on behavior management or classroom management, or trained in restorative practices or other more holistic approaches to ‘discipline.’ Yet we often overlook how our own backgrounds shape our approaches to children’s behavior, which can lead to invisible bumps in implementing effective strategies.
Start by taking a curious stance, and reflect on your school, home, or community settings as a child. Did you feel welcome? How were behavior expectations communicated implicitly and explicitly? How did those experiences influence what you expect of children in your care today? The resource linked here dives deeper with more detailed prompts about this critical question.
Get ready to shift from "power over" to "power with" your students. I hope you’ll join us on this journey to empower and connect with your students in meaningful ways that benefit your positive and engaged learning community.
Understanding your students on a deeper level is key to preventing challenging behaviors, and often overlooked in traditional ‘classroom management’ or ‘discipline’ approaches. This week, we encourage you to ask yourself, "What don't I know about my students, and how can I find out more?"
I like to start with a simple chat. You might already know a lot about your learners, but there's always more to discover. Try having at least one non-academic conversation with a student this week to uncover their interests, especially outside of school. What will you learn about them? I like to ask open ended questions, like “what are some sports you like?” rather than “what’s your favorite soccer team?” to leave plenty of room for connection.
For even deeper insights, take the initiative to send a family survey home. If you’re already part of the Positive and Engaged Learning Community, we include an example to help you get started.
By understanding your students more fully, you can create a space that supports positive behavior and fosters a strong learning community. Building trust is a powerful part of your positive and engaged learning community toolkit!
High expectations are essential in creating a positive learning environment. Ask yourself, "What do I expect of my students, and have I explicitly shared these expectations?" But don’t stop there! Consider where they may have behavior or academic skill gaps that need teaching or scaffolds to meet those high expectations.
Balancing high expectations with support for each child’s unique talents is a challenge worth embracing. In my experience, the children are capable of so much, and sometimes only need a little bit of support, like a checklist, role playing a new routine, or seeing visual cues.
In one of the Positive and Engaged Learning Community modules, we'll guide you in explicitly teaching and defining expectations. Whether you’ve joined us in that professional development experience yet or not, try explicitly teaching one new behavioral skill this week.
First, notice the child *trying* to do that skill. Where are the gaps? Do they need to learn some language for talking out a conflict on the yard? Maybe they need a warning before a transition, and some practice with starting the transition or cleanup process. Show how to do the new skill, and give plenty of opportunities to practice, practice, practice.
Your commitment to empowerment is making a difference.
In the Positive and Engaged Learning Community we explore the concept of being a "warm demander" in our Community Coaching live meetings and in the on-demand course. In this brief activity, we invite you take a look at the Warm Demander chart from Zaretta Hammond’s book Culturally Responsive Teaching published by Corwin Press. Take a moment to identify statements that resonate with you. Then, consider this concrete idea for bringing a warm demander stance to life: a focus on consistency and predictability, which can create opportunities for warm demandingness (is that a word!?) throughout the day.
In what ways does your learning environment already provide consistency and predictability? Are there well established routines, clear expectations, morning meetings, daily greetings, daily schedule and monthly calendars, routines for infrequent events like fire drills, birthdays, or guests? How do children know what to expect, even when something unexpected happens? Maybe you have a calm corner, and children know that they can always take space there to move through big feelings. How do you build in warmth consistently and predictability throughout the day, by greeting children, asking them about their day and their families, or in other ways?
Keep building that strong learning community!