Does every child need someone to fight their corner? Rita Pierson certainly thought so…
Now before I begin, this isn’t a rant or finger-pointing. I’m as guilty as anyone. In fact, it was only on reflection – after hearing a keynote this year – that I became fully conscious of just how easy it is to do. In fact, we can all be guilty of it. We do it without even realising it’s happening…
The Usual Suspects
Every teacher, whether a wide-eyed trainee or thick-skinned veteran, has favourites in their class. It’s a natural thing to do. It’s obvious that as we form relationships, those that make positive impacts on us becomes one of our favourite, we form connections, and we become their champion.
“Every single teacher is a champion for children within their classroom. “
Everyone has, at least, that one child that, for whatever reason, resonates with them.
But what about those that ‘press our buttons’? Those that disrupt the lesson we have spent hours preparing over a weekend or late into the evening? What about those who push boundaries and break rules? And then there are those who do not meet our (or the school) expectations. Surely these are the children who need a champion more than most.
Of course it’s difficult as, with the pressure and expectations put on teachers, every minute spent ‘dealing with behaviour’ (as I’ve heard numerous teachers comment) is a missed learning opportunity’. Our time is precious and the demands on us ever-growing. But surely, if we connect with those children, build a relationship, and ‘fight their corner’, we will begin to reap the rewards within the classroom as well as grow them.
Top 9 Tips for Being A Champion For Your Children
So, what can we do to ensure that everyone has somebody in their corner, especially those who we find it the hardest to champion?
1. Warm the pot
Let’s be honest, no one expects you to like every child in your class equally. And that’s ok. However, they can never know this! Make sure you spend time making human connections with those children you wouldn’t naturally make. You need to truly get to know them before you can champion them. As James Comer said, “No significant learning can come without a significant relationship”.
2. Break their single story
Listen to but don’t take as verbatim another adult’s perceptions of a child they have taught or interacted with. It’s amazing how our impressions of a child are formed before we have even welcomed them into our classroom. Start afresh. Make sure you spread the word – let everyone know their successes!
3. Fight their corner outside of the classroom
It is amazing how many children miss out because staff find it easier to not include them. Where possible, fight their corner! The more staff hear you championing the child, the less likely they are to miss out due to the past or the perceptions of others.
4. Make every step a learning opportunity
No one is perfect. We all learn from our mistakes. Make sure you turn these moments into learning opportunities. What went wrong? Why? What can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again? What have we learnt? Support them with this. Avoid the temptation to focus too much on the negative – try to flip it on its head. Then, when they avoid the situation in the future or show the change, make sure you highlight it. Sing their praises loud!
5. Be patient and touch base
It’s a long road ahead. There will be bumps and set backs. Patience is the key. Touch base regularly with them. Don’t assume that ‘things are ok now’. Short check-ins let them know you’re still there. Yes it is time-consuming but it will be worth every second in the long run.
You may believe in them but do they believe in themselves? It’s hard at any age but especially when they may be aware of others perceptions of them. Break the negative self-fulfilling prophecy and get them to recognise (and verbalise) their positives. If they say it enough, it will become part of them!
7. With not against
They need to take ownership of the positive changes. They are the ones making them, with you support, and not because you are making them change. If they don’t want it, it will ultimately fall apart. Take the time to work with them and avoid making the changes for them.
8. Get others on board
Get others, especially those who have had negative relationships with them in the past, to join the bandwagon of praise. The more they hear it from other people, the more they will believe it. It’s amazing how positivity can snowball.
Reflect with them about what is going well. If somethings not working, change it. Let them take ownership for the change and they will drive it forward.
One more thing...
Remember, human connection is key.