Picking up the Pieces
Last week I read Bill Burkhead’s (@NormandinBill) blog on building trust and making a difference. As I read his posting I reflected back on a number of interactions I had with students over the years. Like Bill, I too prided myself on being able to connect with the most challenging and troubled students. Much had to do with the fact that I myself did not have a positive school experience. Because of my own experiences, I believe it gave me a better perspective of what our struggling learners face on a daily basis and gave me some insight on how to influence their behavior in a positive way.
One of the most successful strategies that I have used over the years to connect with students and develop a trusting relationship is a strategy I call, “Picking up the Pieces.” It is a rather simple strategy I learned from my first boss, Dr. Dan Donder, who hired me as an associate principal when I was a mere 26 years old. He modeled for me over and over the value and importance of following up with students after dealing with them in any type of discipline situation. He would make it a point to follow up with students after an office visit in the hallway, cafeteria, during passing time, etc. and ask them if they understood why he had disciplined them. He would listen to what the student had to say and then share with the student it was because he had high expectations for them and cared about them. He would often state, “I never want you to think it is okay to behave in that manner. I have higher standards for you than that. I am always going to encourage you to take a look at your own behavior and ask yourself what you did to contribute to the situation.” He would then make it a point to search the student out over and over again to check on him/her, ask how they were doing, compliment them in some capacity, share a personal story, etc. until a meaningful relationship had been established. To this day, I still use this strategy to connect with students regularly and refer to it as “Picking up the Pieces.” However, over the years, I have modified my approach a bit and compliment it with another similar strategy. Now, I often ask students after meeting with them for any type of disciplinary situation two simple questions immediately at the conclusion of our discussion.