Featured Insights May 23

4 ideas to address challenging student behaviors through relationship-building

As we’re approaching the end of the school year, there are so many positive events happening on campuses. From graduations to end-of-year award ceremonies, now’s a time to bask in the year’s accomplishments.

It’s also the perfect time to consider new approaches to the upcoming academic year and to start making plans that address key challenges that are top of mind. At a recent in-person meet-up event, school leaders shared with us that they’re most concerned about two key issues: a rise in both student absenteeism and behavior referrals. 

We are inspired by the ways school leaders are working to solve these important concerns, and at the same time, we are struck by the common denominator in many of their successful strategies. That common thread is a focus on building strong relationships with their students. As school leaders shared, when students have positive adult connections on campus, they are more primed to attend class and to approach learning with more engagement and motivation.

Check out these 4 ideas on how to help address challenging student behaviors:

  1. Staff absenteeism council: With the number of students who are chronically absent spiking over the past several years, schools across the country are looking for innovative ways to encourage attendance. At Catalyst Maria High School in Chicago, administrator Mark Lenz worked with three designated staff members to identify students with chronic absenteeism and had regular meetings to discuss each student. The staff members made personal connections with these students to get to know them, and also visited their homes. On campus, this staff council also implemented a “check-in/check-out” structure with these students to further build up a strong relationship.
  2. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS): For Tanis Griffin, school leader at Thompson Intermediate School in the Houston area, the past year has seen a high number of behavior referrals. To start tackling the problem, she began by bringing professional development to staff on how to be a trauma-informed campus. “We’ve gone through training to better support students who have gone through trauma and the impact it has on learning and the brain,” she explained. “We are trying to understand the triggers for each child.” As part of the effort to better understand each student, she also invites students to talk to the PBIS team, a staff group focused on systems change. Students help to look at trends at the school and inform updates to policies.
  3. Consistently celebrate wins with students and staff: Getting creative with how students are recognized, and doing so consistently, is another way to build relationships and address other student challenges. At Turquoise Trail Middle School in Santa Fe, New Mexico, school leader Joe Dan Lovato gives out “Turquoise Tickets” to recognize students’ good behavior. Winners are entered into a regular raffle for fun reward items like chips or drinks. At the end of the school year, eligible students will be entered to win a guitar (“Guitars for Goodness”) thanks to a local partnership with Guitar Center. Additionally, Lovato hosts monthly events and socials for staff to ensure strong connections are modeled from the leadership level.
  4. Incorporate student voice: School leaders shared a variety of strategies that elevate student voice on their campuses, and help lead to more engagement. Using Along, the teacher-student connection builder, is a good way to understand what’s important to each student. Educators can take these student insights and then create opportunities on campus that will encourage motivation, based on the unique needs at your school. Check out this blog post to learn more about starting a Principal’s Cabinet featuring students: using restorative practices for student conflict resolution; and incorporating a weekly plan for wellness. 

By focusing on creating strong teacher-student connections, school leaders are laying the foundation for a positive school environment that can have many positive outcomes. Why not start today by learning more about Along? Reach out to our team for a demo today and build a plan for a successful ‘24 – ‘25 school year!

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