This summer, I’m planning a backpacking expedition to the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. The views will be awe inspiring, they always are. I’d like to move there someday, but I’m afraid that living there will cause me to take the views for granted and they’ll lose their impact on me.
The whole trip started as a fitness goal for a friend of mine. He asked me if I’d be wiling to design a trip out west to push his physical limits. He has been preparing for this trip for several months. His health is improving and he has begun to collect the essentials needed for this backpacking adventure. Since this is his first camping experience, let alone wilderness backpacking, we thought it to be wise to add a two more guys for safety and to help off set the cost of gas and any lodging that may be necessary on the journey back and forth.
Any expedition has some level of risk involved. However, these risks can be limited through good planning. I limited the risk of me being devoured by a grizzly by inviting three other men that I believe to be slower than me. A ranger told me once that grizzlies only gnaw on the slowest member of your party.
In school, we can replace the dangerous grizzly by another topic, the unconnected student. In larger, secondary schools it is difficult to make sure each student feels connected. In fact, let’s eliminate the possibility of connecting with all students from the equation. Let’s just focus on the students who seem to demand our attention because of their attention seeking antics.
Building relationships seems to be easy and enjoyable for me. However, that isn’t the case with every teacher. My associate principal learned a strategy that seems to be full proof and easy to implement. The strategy can be found in a book titled, Connecting with Students by Allen Mendler.
I don’t have the data that Mendler used in the book, but the results of implementing the strategy made clear the effort of building relationships. The strategy asks the staff member to select a student that is the itch that always needs to be scratched, not quite a direct quote. Then, over the next ten days the staff member is to make a two minute, meaningful conversation where the goal is to get the student to do more of the talking. I wouldn’t start with school related topics like homework, but possibly about school athletics. Even the busiest staff member should be able to spare two minutes per day for a short period of ten days. Try it and let me know how it went.
I am happy to report that I have never had an encounter with a grizzly in the wild and I believe it is due to proper planning. If we want to improve the culture of our schools, start by investing two minutes per day for ten days. Practice talking with your students and remember that what you say is just as important as how you say it.
Make it part of your planning!