Take CHARGE Day 2: Connectedness is foundational
Updated: Feb 12, 2020
Take CHARGE of the Classroom
Humans are social by nature. We exist in community and relationships drive everything we do. In talking to teachers about taking charge of their classrooms, the first thing I would discuss is not a discipline plan. I wouldn't talk about procedures, though those are important, or even engaging instruction.
I would talk about you.
How do you show up each day? How much of yourself do you bring into the classroom? Do you fully inhabit your instructional space or are you going through the motions? Students can tell the difference instantly. They can connect to teachers that are human. In fact, they long to do so.
Students won't connect with a cardboard cutout.
In Conscious Discipline, Dr. Becky Bailey explores the relationship between connectedness and behavior. She states that the former governs the latter, and that a common phrase teachers hear when disciplining children has a hidden meaning.
When a child says, "I don't care," he's really saying, "I don't feel cared for."
Relationships form the brain pathways that are responsible for meaning, the regulation of bodily states, and the modulation of emotion. Interconnectedness also guides the ability to focus and sustain attention, the organization of memories, and the capacity for interpersonal communication.
To put it succinctly, relationships drive learning.
When students feel accepted by the teacher and form a connection with him or her, their brains are given the green light to learn. The connection and affection must be genuine, however, for the minds of children are wired to resonate with others. They can smell counterfeit kindness a mile away.
The primary force in any classroom is you, the teacher. You set the tone for how things operate in the classroom. Many educators fail to commit 100% of themselves to their teaching for a variety of reasons. Some are distracted with personal matters, some believe that professional distance is beneficial. Others are too stressed while still others actively dream of doing anything but teaching.
When students sense that their teacher is not fully committed to inhabiting their shared space, they disconnect. Behaviors go awry and class cohesion diminishes. Before you mentally chastise your students for not trying their very best, look in the mirror. If you were accused of giving your all to teaching, to exerting every ounce of energy to improving the lives of students, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
Taught by a 4th grader
My first year of teaching in 2000-2001 happened by accident. My goal, fresh out of college, was to be a preacher, and I was taking classes at a local seminary for that purpose. Needing a job however (ministry notoriously underpays), I found myself in an alternative certification program teaching fourth graders in Fort Worth, TX.
I had no idea what I was doing but, thankfully, the kids didn't seem to know what I was supposed to do either. So we simply had fun.