Monday, August 4, 2014

Are you ready? Setting Goals and Making Connections to last the school year and beyond!

Back to school is just around the corner!  Are you ready?  This is the time of year when the proverbial slate is wiped clean with the hopes for another amazing year.  It is also when building committees and individuals will be setting goals for the upcoming school year.  Most people have New Year’s Resolutions… We have School Year’s Resolutions.

Throughout each year the School Improvement Committee establishes four specific goals: improving academics, enhancing differentiation, integrating technology, and developing student leaders who take charge of their own learning.  These are sustained goals with action strategies and measurable timelines to generate conversation and improvement for our school and students.  We also commit to additional goals based on the current trends in education, which are building and/or district developed.  Over the years we have concentrated on the following:  Brain Based Learning, Professional Learning Communities, Curriculum Development, Instructional Practices, Differentiation, Multi-Tiered System of Support, Positive Behavior Intervention Support, Standards Base Grading, Technology Integration, Creating Leaders, Reading/Writing/Math Workshop, Professional Growth Process, Project Based Learning, and many more.  When we sustain learning for an entire year, with an intentional focus, it is more likely that the knowledge and implementation will maintain for years to come.  It gives educators a sense of accomplishment and purpose for establishing new initiatives.  The key is to make sure supports and professional development opportunities are provided throughout any goal or initiative, while embarking on all decisions with a basic question:  Is it good for children?

More importantly, educators should commit to a relationship goal each year to sustain a culture of learning where everyone who walks through the school doors believe that they are going to have an amazing experience!  Genuine relationships built on trust will enhance any culture.  This year’s relationship goal will focus on making connections!  District and building professional development and staff meetings will focus on making connections with students and other stakeholders to enhance the learning environment. 

I am fortunate to work with a faculty that views positive relationships as the most important consideration within their classrooms, creating environments where students want to spend their days.  This happens because we have an amazing staff who intentionally builds relationships and genuinely loves educating children.   It also happens because we sustain conversations regarding the importance of relationships throughout our culture and within any new initiative that we establish. 

“A quality teacher-student relationship means more than the combined power of all teaching and discipline techniques known to humankind.”
Love and logic Teacher-ism

I love this quote!  Establishing positive relationships with your students, while creating a community where students have relationships with each other, will truly benefit any classroom atmosphere.  Quality teacher-student and student-student relationships increases effectiveness of classroom management and instruction.  It also makes everyone’s experience more enjoyable.  

As you know, it is extremely important to set a positive culture and climate that will last a school year!  I truly believe that everything comes back to positive relationships.  One way to create a positive relationship is to let your students know that they are safe.  Create a safe classroom from the first day of school by:

·         Setting expectations together:  Allow students to assume some of the responsibility of creating classroom expectations, promoting respectful, responsible, and safe behaviors. 

·         Teaching procedures:  Daily teaching of classroom expectations, rather than relying on rules, will enhance any learning culture. 

·         Being consistent: Students will respond to a teacher that is consistent in daily practice.

·         Communicating in positive terms and be intentional about your teacher tone:  “I listen to one person at a time… thanks – works much better than, BE QUIET!”  Love and Logic Teacher-ism.

·         Remaining competent and calm in challenging moments: Modeling that you are in control of your emotions will showcase to students the appropriate response when handling their own emotions. 

·         Teaching differentiation:  Let students know that everyone gets what they need.  Students need to feel comfortable knowing that everyone has different needs and it is OK.

·         Enjoying teaching with enthusiasm:   Modeling that you love what you do is contagious and students will feel comfort in knowing their teacher loves to learn.

·         Making and responding to mistakes:  Students need to understand that they can be risk takers within the learning process and mistakes are part of learning. 

·         Focusing on teacher proximity:  Be present during independent work, supporting students and noticing their efforts throughout the day.  It is even ok to stop by the cafeteria (gym is where we eat lunch) or even shoot a basket or two during recess, positive proximity doesn't need to stop in the classroom.  The extra 2-3 minutes of positive proximity outside your classroom will enhance the community feeling that you are establishing in your classroom.

·         Encouraging reflection:  When things go wrong, one must encourage reflection rather than scolding for inappropriate behaviors or actions.  Consequences might be necessary; however, make sure students understand that it is the behaviors that you do not like, always showing empathy for the child.

I truly believe that children will not learn from people they do not like or if they do not feel safe within their learning environment.  It is important to make connections that will last a school year.  Watch this inspirational TED Talk by Rita F. Pierson, which showcases the importance of making connections.

TED Talks Education: Rita F. Pierson
Relationships - The Key to Learning
"Kids don't learn from people they don't like!"
"You say it long enough it starts to be a part of you."
"We teach anyway... because that is what we do! We are educators... We are born to make a difference!"
"Every kid needs a champion!"

As the year gets started, I encourage you all to sustain a relationship goal.  Going to a workshop on relationship building might be beneficial but setting a goal, which is maintained over time and a focal point to everything you accomplish, will provide results.  “You say it long enough it starts to be a part of you” and it will be a part of your culture as well. 

Enjoy setting relationship goals to guide and sustain making connections to last the school year and beyond. “Be a champion” for your students!  Please share your thoughts and goals with us!  


 Rules provided without relationship result in rebellion.
Consequences given without relationship lead to resentment.
Rewards without relationship feel like bribes.

Love and Logic Teacher-isms


  1. I love how you talked about a behavior goal, Keith! I understand your statement: "...we have an amazing staff who intentionally builds relationships and genuinely loves educating children." It has to be intentional, and not a "we'll wait and see what happens." To me that means that an adult is okay with whatever happens in stead of deciding in advance the path that the relationship will go down. Everything else is important, too, but the relationship has to come first!
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Jennifer, I appreciate your comments! Thanks for the support. I truly believe that creating positive relationships throughout the school environment should be at the forefront of what we do each day. Enjoy the week!

  2. I love this post, Keith! Building rapport and relationships is the most important aspect of education, in my opinion. I like a quote that I heard Angela Maiers say one time: "If you don't get their heart, you won't have a shot at their brains or their business!" I agree with this completely.

    I love the list of recommendations you give! Everything you list is geared towards helping students become passionate learners, and caring people, who have ownership in their education. I think that these variables help students to the autonomy, purpose, and mastery that Daniel Pink discusses related to intrinsic motivation.

    The best part about this approach, is that while it will lead to improved learning of the content and an improved culture, I also think it helps students develop passion, compassion, and integrity. When students grow up, graduate, and the dust settles, these will be the important lessons and skills that students take away from their education.

    Thank you for sharing this post!

    Oliver Schinkten
    ComPassion Based Learning

    1. Oliver, I appreciate the thoughtful comments. Building positive relationships is key to a successful learning experience. I love the Angela Maiers quote. Thanks for reading and sharing!

  3. Keith, relationships are truly important for student and personal growth. I will be working on relationships this year, as well as being connected! I'll be referring to your post to make sure that I am covering all the relationship areas I need to be successful!
    -Jennifer #2 #compelledtribe

    1. Thanks for the comments and have a great year!

  4. I love 'school year resolutions'! Focusing on what's best for kids, and using that as the foundation for decisions can only create success! Will be taking that with me into my school year as well. Thanks!
    Dana #compelledtribe

    1. Thanks, Dana! I appreciate you reading! Enjoy the start of the school year!

  5. Keith,
    I love the approach you've taken to your goals. As the lead learner, you clearly recognize that your teachers are the most significant variable in the classroom and that your students are the most important people in your school. Your goals clearly set the tone for an exciting 2014-2015 school year and establish high expectations for your entire staff.

    Have a great 2014-2015!

    1. Thanks for the support, Reed! I appreciate you reading and commenting. Have a great start to the school year!

  6. Keith I love this piece! One part stands out among all the rest. Setting relationship goals. How often do we do this? Not often. Yet we spend countless hours pouring over data so that we can set other goals. I think we have this backwards and I'm glad you have helped remind us of this.

    1. Jon, thank for reading and supporting the concept of setting relationships. It sounds simple but it is the most important thing we need to accomplish within education and life. Have a great week!