Education leaders, pay attention: this one is for you!
Most people appreciate when you show interest in their concerns, big or small. Relating to minor issues can build trust for bigger topics like discipline and curriculum. If you can see yourself in their shoes, they’re more likely to trust you with the big issues when it comes to discipline and curriculum.
These two tidbits are the key to deepening relationships with students, faculty, and district and board members. It can also be a brain tool to help you remember names or at least distinguish facts about the conversations.
In most education settings, there are so many people to connect with! This is exactly why you need quick, simple tools that can open the door to relationships with depth, allowing for connection on multiple levels.
We've put together some techniques that you can try.
Make the Rounds
If they don’t see you, then you don’t exist much more than the wizard behind the curtain in Oz. Students and the people on your team need to see and feel respected by you. Shake their hands, call them by their name, and offer direct eye-contact and a smile.
This means getting out of your office during times when you know students will be in the hallways. Mingle, walk around, and chat!
For teachers, try to give them a genuine compliment when you’re out and about. Poke your head in the door and say, “Miss Nguyen, your students are clearly enjoying your lesson,” or “Mr. Jimenez, [so-and-so] mentioned you did [XYZ]. Thanks, I really appreciate your support.”
Read the Room
Or the backpack. Or the outfit. Or the shoes…always the shoes! Kids want to talk about themselves, so if you see them doodling during a class visit, ask them if they’ve considered art class or what their favorite medium is.
If you see a Jordan-sporting fashionista, compliment the kicks and ask what pair they’re eyeballing next (because there always is one)! If you see an Eras Tour sticker on a backpack or hear the lyrics in the hallway, shock them all by singing along or asking what their favorite Taylor Swift song is.
Repeat, Relate, & Question
A quick psychological trick to help people feel heard and understood is the “RRQ” trick. When someone offers you information, either calm or heated, you can repeat back what you heard and then relate to their situation.
For example, Ms. Jones never stops suggesting a book vending machine.
You might say, “Ms. Jones, I hear that you’re excited at the prospect of a book vending machine. I’m also eager to find ways that might entice our students to read more. Why don’t you brainstorm some ideas for consideration and email them to me?”
Or, that one student who continues to be disrespectful to his teacher and is in your office for the thousandth time!
You might say, “Sam, why don’t you tell me what happened before you chose to say [XYZ] to Mrs. Perry and then we can discuss another way to handle that situation with more respect. Would you work with me to understand and repair the relationship?”
Your students and faculty will remember you as someone who was visible, who communicated directly and specifically, and who was open to hearing about change, considering their thoughts and emotions.