eNews - January 27, 2016

spec ed connection

With the limited amount of time teachers have with each student and students sometimes displaying multiple behavioral problems, using one strategy will lead to quick results. Although much can be said about rewards and reinforcement in all forms, the one strategy that will produce the quickest and longest-lasting change is relationship-building with students. Research supports this principle which, in Applied Behavior Analysis, is referred to as conditioned reinforcement.

Did you know that a positive student-teacher relationship is tied to students’ social/emotional adjustment in school? And that students emulate the behavior of those they look up to the most?

Even preschoolers experience stress when dealing with negative teachers. Though it can take a long time to form strong bonds with students at all grade levels, and especially with students who present with behavioral difficulties, beginning that process will produce effective and quick changes.

When time is of the essence and not much time is available, here are some simple strategies we can use:

  • Stand by the door upon students’ entering and say "hi"
  • Provide writing prompts related to students’ lives/interests
  • Ask students to share a fact about themselves in less than 5 seconds (favorite animal, color etc.)
  • Ask students to share a fact about themselves on small, erasable boards to be displayed to you
  • Ask students to share a fact about themselves on an index card that you will collect later
  • Integrate students’ names and preferences in lessons/when giving examples to clarify
  • Send notes home and make parent calls to report positive information
  • Give students’ classroom responsibilities based on their strengths
  • Be mindful of your choice of words, tone of voice, and body language
  • Teach students how to work/play with peers (avoid assumptions on learning curve)
  • Model positive behavior when interacting with students and with other adults on campus, at school events, and in the community
  • Hold high standards for your students academically and behaviorally
  • Focus on students strengths'
  • Be clear and very specific when providing instructions
  • Be consistent
  • Praise students for specific behaviors/achievements
  • Rephrase/ask questions to make sure students feel heard

Here is a video that focuses on the research behind teacher/student relationships:


Creating positive relationships with your students (and other adults on campus) will lead to better student outcomes when paired with individualized high expectations both for academics and behavior.