Repair and Restore

I was looking through my blogs from this year, and I realized it’s been very singular in focus. Relationships, Relationships, Relationships. It’s at the heart of what we are focusing on throughout our school district this year, and it’s clearly surging to the forefront when I sit down to write and reflect. I have several other topics that I need to “get down on paper,” but this always seems like the most pressing, the most important. I hope that I always see it that way. Recently a group of staff members from my district attended a conference presented by Resilience Impact. One of the keynote speakers, Dr. Clay Cook, talked in depth about trauma, resilience, and, of course, relationships. One of the areas of his talk that I found most intriguing was when he presented on the importance of restoring negative interactions with students.

I don’t think anyone in education wakes up in the morning hoping for a negative interaction with students. However, it does happen and it happens to all of us; sometimes it is beyond our control. There are situations when students become disruptive to the point that they need to leave their classmates and cool down. This is an obvious example of a negative reaction between an educator and a student, but after the conference I started to think about the little things that need repair. Are we taking the time to connect with students? It wouldn’t take long to communicate a misunderstanding or reflect with that student about something that happened earlier. I wonder if we are taking the time to always pursue this critical step, and I wonder how different our school would be if we did? How many times do we move along with our day after correcting a student, publicly addressing behavior, or not fully understanding a situation? One of the key ingredients of maintaining healthy relationships is the ability to restore, and I believe we need to be purposeful/mindful of this on a daily basis.

When we start to look through the microscope of every interaction, it can be overwhelming to pick those that might be taken negatively by a student. Our words matter. All of them. Todd Whitaker probably said it best when he said this about our profession, “The best part about being a teacher is that it matters. The hardest part about being a teacher is that it matters every day.” There are no off days, and our words have a profound impact on students; even when we’re not aware of it. The problem is we are all human, and we are going to make mistakes. So then, how do we ensure we are picking our words carefully while holding students accountable to expectations? I believe Dr. Cook would tell us to focus on empathy. If we can do our best to communicate what the student might be thinking, or at least that we are trying to understand how they feel, our chances of preventing a negative interaction have increased significantly.

Our students are resilient beyond belief. All relationships will have their ups and downs. Maintaining relationships with students by being mindful about restoring and repairing after a negative interaction should not go overlooked. Our kids deserve it!