Thinking about relationships and trust today. How truly important it is to develop this with each child – each child, even the ones that are difficult to connect with – before you can build community in a classroom.
I had dinner not long ago with a friend who teaches intensive special needs. I was commenting on how so many teachers miss this crucial element of taking time to get to know each child, really get to know him or her, and build trust. They then become frustrated when they can’t “reach” the child. But of course they can’t reach the child. He doesn’t feel invested in so growth and change can’t happen.
My friend pulled my chair closer to him and looked at me. “That’s because it’s all about intimacy,” he said.
I had never thought of that word in the context of my students. And yet, he was so right. It’s perfect, really. Intimacy. Ultimate trust. Ultimate, unconditional acceptance and knowing, and reliance upon another person. Unconditional love, even?
The children I have made the most progress with over the years are the ones I have shared the most intimacy with. I can say that unequivocally. And they may have also been the most difficult kids in many ways. The challenge for us teachers is how to create that intimacy with each child in our classrooms when their needs are so different and their temperaments vary so dramatically. And there are just so many of them!
I think teachers model this with each other. Kids love when they see the teachers in my classroom laughing together. They respond positively to a good vibe among the teachers. They laugh with us even when they have no idea what the joke is. It creates a sense of ease and care and joy that is contagious in the classroom.
Intimacy means children feel safe to make mistakes, express themselves, and grow and learn at their own pace. Children are deeply intuitive. They can sense when they are liked and when they are understood and truly known. Taking the time to get to know each child in a genuine way, and demonstrating that they are special as an individual in a classroom of their peers, can greatly impact your influence on that child.