I worry that some students might get diminished by any negative observations. There is that theory about building high self-esteem, after all, and I certainly don’t remember my teachers caring about my self-esteem (and I didn’t like it). However, I’ve found (and read) that this approach is ultimately ineffective. Better is having very high expectations of each student. Sure, it is essential to balance positive comments with discussions of areas needing improvement but even this doesn’t quite work for me. What I have settled on for the moment is to care about the student’s work and reflect to them the strengths they’ve displayed and the areas for further work. I’ve tried hard to build a culture of kaizen (constant improvement) and one that accepts mistakes. “Cherish mistakes,” I’ve taught them, “being wrong is on the road to being right.” What I hope and expect will happen is that they will quickly learn they are working in a safe environment where all feedback is positive whether it highlights areas of strength or weakness.
DQ2– What is the importance of building relationships with all school personnel (i.e. custodians, school secretary, librarian, support staff, etc.)?
A school is a VERY cramped environment. Like a ship, everybody works in tight quarters and is forced together in cooperation regularly. While teachers spend their days in relative isolation, they are nonetheless connected to the other site personnel. To function optimally, a teacher needs all the other staff on her side. Each member of the site team holds keys to smooth success, from lending a screwdriver to working out a snafu with books to navigating an arcane district form. They also have the power to make things easy or hard. They are human and consciously or unconsciously respond to how they perceive they are treated. On a less practical more emotional note, working in a friendly environment beats the alternative by a mile. The best way to work towards a friendly environment is to be preemptively friendly. Finally and most importantly, I believe that students learn from our behavior and treating other adults with respect and friendship models not only how they might treat their peers but also how they should behave when they become adults.