MESS asks: I am a new teacher in The American school. How can I establish a relationship with all children?
Hi MESS –
Well I guess I have two answers for you. The first is that it’s impossible. Some kids are going to like you, while some really don’t. Hey don’t take it personally – some kids don’t like me, and I’m soft and cuddly and pretty and playful and funny and lick their nose and… and they still don’t like me! Maybe they were bitten by a dog once, so they are afraid of all dogs. Or maybe they just like cats better (I know, I know, but some kids are just crazy that way!). Or maybe they just have other things on their mind. Similarly, some kids just aren’t going to like their teacher, or they’ll like teachers that are very different from you. And for those kids, your job is just to do the best you can: teach them as much as possible, keep them safe and out of trouble, and work to give more of yourself to the others who really develop a relationship with you.
That’s my first answer. My second is… GREAT! I love that you care about creating a relationship with all the kids; you’re going to be the kind of teacher I love, and the kind that most of the kids will love too! Just the fact that you want to do this means you’re very likely to (lots of teachers couldn’t care less!). And so it’s probably going to be relatively easy for you to do the one thing that will work best at building those relationships, which is to Listen and Be Interested! Find out what those kids care about. Encourage them to talk about those things. If some kids are really into a certain video game and you’re not, have them teach you about it. And if they’re interested in something you are into, then you can share what you love about it! If you’re teaching writing, have the kids write about things they’re interested in. If you’re teaching history, work with them to see how the events you’re teaching are analogous to things in their own life and present-day events. If you’re teaching math, use story problems they can relate to.
The crazy, ridiculous, stupid thing about all this, my MESSy friend, is that you may well be the only teacher these kids get who shows that much interest in them. But if so, you will probably be the favorite teacher of most of those kids.
One warning, though: It’s great to build a relationship with the kids, but don’t try to be their best friend. You’re still the authority figure. Remember, it’s part of a child or teenager’s job to test limits and defy authority. If you don’t offer any, they’re going to run roughshod over your class, and no one will be happy, especially not you. Keep a firm hand, but Listen and Be Interested… and you’ll have the time of your life!