Tools for Connectedness
This section is a work in progress, constantly being developed to bring to light the many tools, inventories, models, lessons and much more we can use to build connectedness in our schools and beyond. I look forward to hearing about the wonderful tools you have developed. Here are a few of mine.
Is your classroom/school empathic?
? connects students, staff, parents and community. Invests in people, not just things
? practices empathy, compassion, acceptance
? teaches children how to read and relate
? recharges our batteries
? nurtures a health promoting environment
? encourages self-care
? builds confidence and shields hearts
? solves relationship problems to solve behaviour problems
? attaches children to adult champions
? helps children to name, know and nurture their sparks
? values respect, inclusion, tolerance, diversity
? looks into the child, not just the textbook
10 reasons to follow a connectedness approach
1. It is an insight approach, a way of thinking (not a method or set of prescriptions).
2. It is about realizing human potential.
3. It enshrines natural processes by which all of us grow up.
4. It explores deficiencies and dysfunction that result from developmental arrest.
5. It uses language that is common and closer to natural intuition.
6. It focuses on what is natural rather than what is normal.
7. It gets to the roots of the behaviour (the beginning, the etiology) by making sense of it from the inside out.
8. It steers away from medical or behavioural models and builds on the child’s assets/spark.
9. It treats parents as equals, with respect and dignity.
10. It creates relationships that are nurturing.
How to cultivate connection
Recognize that attachment is the most powerful force of all.
Perceive the child as being in need of the adult. Create a safety net for the child.
Invite parents/adults to offer their care and expertise. Solicit the child’s good intentions.
Collect, bridge, match make.
Be in the lead, take over and look after the child.
Feel their place, see/identify with the child’s point of view.
Stay the course, don’t throw in the towel.
Comfort children when they are wounded.
Manage oneself rather than trying to manage the child.
Create rituals/activities that embrace connection.
Assume responsibility for the relationship and for preserving the connection.
Take charge of decisions and circumstances regarding the child.
Show the child that you have their best interests at heart.
Create scenarios where the child can rely and depend on you.
Normalize times of confusion and disorientation. Model mixed feelings.
Soften defenses first.
Say no to the child when necessary, set limits, help through times when things don’t go child’s way).
Help the child move mad feelings to sad feelings.
Prime the adaptive process. Consequences must evoke feelings of sadness and disappointment in the child.
Focus on social and emotional learning.
Build a culture of compassion and caring. Be a role model and a mentor.
Wade’s Connection Practices
The following are strategies used by a teacher to purposefully and intentionally build relationship with his students:
Introductory practices (early in the school year)
BBQs or picnics at parks
Taking an interest in their lives, questioning, getting a sense of their history
Connecting with parents, informal meetings, going out for coffee, tea, lunch
Picking students up from home and dropping them off
Walking them to their integrated classes
Greeting them in the morning and asking how their night was, how well they slept etc.
Going on a team-building hike or other outdoor physical activity
Gathering them in the morning, greetings, eye-contact, undivided attention, handshakes
Breakfast, lunch and available snacks throughout the day
Phone calls in morning (wake-up calls)
Use of humour and joking with them
Constant communication with parents and outside agencies
1-on-1 sessions, walking, running, drives, schoolwork
Making connections with the larger peer group
Playing games with them (checkers, connect-4, cards, dice, spoons)
Working out with them in the weight room, recreation centre, playing basketball, badminton
Getting the morning paper and going through it with them, sharing news, sports, horoscopes
Taking student concerns to their regular teachers and becoming their advocate
Moments of undivided personal attention
Reminding them they have unique skills and qualities
Hugs, playful punches, neck and shoulder rubs
Weekly, Monthly, Special Events
Getting buns, bread and other snacks from community donations and delivering them to their home
Special treats (icecaps, liquorice, ice cream)
Playing practical jokes (April fool’s)
Going on monthly field trips (e.g., swimming, museums, hiking, go-karting, snow-tubing)
Lending bus fare, small amounts of money
Going shopping to buy things they need
Sharing our lunches
Involving outside speakers and presenters on issues such as drugs, gangs and sex education
Attending their extra-curricular events, Xmas concerts, sporting events
Sending Christmas and summer care packages
Coaching or co-coaching sports they are involved in
Bringing them for haircuts or clipping it ourselves
Keep in contact with ex-students/parents
Building on their interests and creating lesson plans around them
Telling them stories about our lives and the struggles and hardships we endured
Accompanying them to places when extreme stress is a factor (counseling, programs, work places)
Stating your feelings as the basis for why something should or should not be done
Reviewing their behaviour with them and connecting it to how it makes them feel
Goal-setting and creation of visualization or dream boards
Discussions on what makes them angry/frustrated, sad and happy
Daily proactive school /class connectedness strategies for IEPs/FBAs.
- School focus on safe and caring schools – daily morning messages and whole school activities
- Morning check in with adult
- Birthday announcements/class parties
- Community building activities – build in opportunities for child to work with a variety of class members
- Teacher to create systems for assigning partners and groups
- Positive behavior notes – catch students following rules and provide explicit feedback
- Explicit teaching of class routines and expectations
- Teachers to use social thinking vocabulary with class – expected vs unexpected
- Teach sensory-based strategies for staying focused in class, signal each transition with a one minute brain break
- Teach self-regulation strategies. Offer programs, e.g., yoga, mindfulness.
- Teach class visual problem-solving model (Circle – Square – Triangle)
- Zones of Regulation program/Other SEL programs like Roots of Empathy
- Fidget tools for everyone
- Help card system – I need help with some of it/all of it/one part of it (Teacher to number steps on board)
- Provide fidget tool for group instruction times (teach correct use)
- Leadership opportunities throughout the school (e.g., Daily Brain Boost, recycling, school store, office monitor, safety patrol.
- Bubbles Analogy for personal space-used by all teachers in all environments
- Buddy readers; helper roles
- Breakfast club; food offerings
- 7-11 mentorship program (Grade 11 student paired with Grade 7 student)
- Individual sessions re: positive peer interactions, personal space and social thinking
- 2 X 10 – teacher spends 2 minutes each day for 10 consecutive days connecting with child about topics that matter to him
- Social thinking-perspective taking activities (expected vs unexpected)
- Individual session re: positive peer interactions, personal space and social thinking
- Small group work on special projects
- Front loading prior to challenging social situations
- Visual problem-solving model (situation, action, outcome)
- Assign older lunch buddy
- High school, university or community mentor
- Friend to Friend Friendship Tips
- Each child has 1 designated school adult anchor
- 3 community champions for each student
- Adults greeting students and parents
- Parents/community partners welcome/visible in school community
- Students involved in giving back to the community
- Students in helping relationships with others in the community, e.g., seniors
- Community outings
- Each child’s spark (s) nurtured
- Special events that celebrate inclusion, equality, tolerance,
- School teams/events/fund raisers
- Cultural celebrations
- Family night/movie night
- Special community forums/events to build connectedness, e.g. invite community in to discuss how to build connectedness
- Greeting/good bye rituals. Smile/light up when we see children
- Match make child to adults
- Bridge to high school by matchmaking to new teachers
- Make eye contact and greet each child by name
- Collaborative problem solving
- Structures and rituals
- Comprehensive school counselling program
- Relationships. Relationships. Relationships.
- Sitting with people and hearing their story. Model this
- Compliment students in front of their peers.
- Practice gratitude by journaling, filling gratitude jars, etc.
- Focus on communities of care.
- Steer away from separation/suspension.
- Teach beyond the lesson plan. Community engagement.
- Adults in the lead. Make it easy for children to lean on adults.
- Walk child to class. Collect them after disconnections/transitions
- 1 on 1 support for students from support staff including custodians, secretaries, educational assistants, community supports
- Movement breaks