As you begin your new school year, consider building relationships as the foundation to your curriculum. “Healthy development depends on the quality and reliability of a young child’s relationship with the important people in his or her life ...” (2004, National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University). Research tells us that a child’s brain development is dependent on positive, nurturing relationships.
Relationship building in the classroom starts with the child and teacher in a “serve and return” manner. The child serves up an interaction and the teacher returns with a cognitively stimulating response uniquely tailored to that child based on the teacher’s knowledge of the child’s interests, capabilities, and initiative. Ultimately, this benefits the child in their ability to have greater social competence, fewer behavior problems and increased thinking and reasoning skills in school.
Relationship building between peers is also important. Cooperative play (taking turns, giving and receiving), friendship skills and sustaining friendships over time are essential to healthy development. Children who have these skills tend to feel more positively about the school experience and therefore perform better in the classroom.
Relationship building between the adults in the room provides another benefit for children. Positive relationships between the teachers and/or aides gives students an opportunity to see what healthy interactions look like. Modeling the serve and return concept, cooperative language, empathy and language interaction can prove to be helpful to the development of a child’s social skills. Conversely, unhealthy interactions between the adults can have a negative impact on students.
So, as you plan your school year consider the following “relationship builders” in your classroom:
- Have parents complete the form, “My Teacher Wants to Know” (available on TACSEI website: www.challengingbehavior.org/.../C_My_Teacher_Wants_to_Know_Rev1209.doc )
- Greet parents and students each day. Use the TUMS model: Touch, Use name, Make eye contact, smile.
- Provide time to let them tell their stories – students have a lot to share.
- Learn about each students’ interests and make sure to comment on them throughout
- the day.
- Read to your students in casual small groups.
- Play with your students. Nothing builds a better relationship than playing with our kids.
- Talk with your students at recess time. Ask questions about their family, pets, outside activities, etc.
- Develop clear behavioral expectations and be consistent; students thrive in a safe, predictable environment.
- Smile and laugh throughout the day.
- Take pictures of students and send them to their parents. Kids usually love to have their picture taken!
- If you make building relationships the foundation to your curriculum, you will see positive outcomes with your students and parents.
- Use these resources for yourself and for your parents:
National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2004). Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships: Working Paper No. 1. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.
Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children (2009).
The Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young
Children: Fact Sheet. Retrieved from: www.challengingbehavior.org.