Thursday, April 29, 2010

Strategies to Overcome Barriers to Relationships and Open Doors to Creativity

Look at the kids you work with. Try as they might to fit in, they are individuals. with their own personalities, appearances, opinions and abilities. If all kids (all people) are different, why do we expect them to learn and perform in the same way?

Encouraging kids to show their knowledge and demonstrate their skills or talents in their own ways can help them to build on what they already know, provide them with opportunities to interact with others and open the door to success. In other words, its a great way to engage them in school and learning. The following ideas are drawn from the online course, Making Connections: Strong Relationships Help Keep Kids in School. Click here to learn more about the course.

Ideas mentors and teachers can use to engage kids:
•Challenge them. Ask kids to wrestle with new concepts, explain their reasoning, defend their conclusions, and explore alternative strategies and solutions.
•Encourage active involvement. Involvement in learning includes conducting experiments, participating in debate and role playing, or completing projects.
•Create opportunities for collaborative work. Collaboration includes working in pairs or small groups on activities that require sharing and meaningful interactions. Students are often more receptive to challenging assignments when they can put their heads together rather than work in isolation. Mentors, create opportunities where you can work together to accomplish something significant.
•Tie things to the world outside of school. Topics that are personally interesting and related to their lives make learning more enjoyable for kids.
•Encourage students to express their interests. Use kids' interests to guide the topics and activities you select.
•Provide constructive and regular feedback. Use errors as opportunities to point out better ways of doing things without criticizing kids’ efforts.
•Engage kids as active learners. Active learners don’t just memorize—they think. They ask questions, find resources and use what they learn in new situations.
•Connect teaching and curriculum to real life. Focus your efforts on real life experiences, values, knowledge, and needs of students.
•Be a role model. Kids are watching you, so model good behaviors (like honesty, kindness, creativity, etc.) thinking processes, and procedures.
•Put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand their challenges, experiences and emotions by framing situations from the point-of-view of each individual child. Understanding how each one makes meaning is to take a look into the various factors and characteristics that define their individual perceptions of the world around them.
•Demonstrate a wil
lingness to help. Empathy is a key to building relationships that help keep kids in school.
When building relationships with students, you might be faced with circumstances that are out of your realm of understanding. Remember that you can show empathy by simply listening to their stories. Just listening may help you make meaning of their experiences and provide opportunities to build realtionships by sharing similar experiences you may have had.