Do you think there are bad kids in the world? Kids who terrorize, bully, and harm others with their words or actions? Are these kids inherently "bad" or are they impacted by their surroundings and taught this behavior? There may be kids who make bad choices, but I don't believe in bad kids.
How teachers view students and treat them is the foundation to being successful in the classroom. Relationships are key. Take one student and two teachers. One teacher has nothing but problems with the student while the other has no issues at all. The difference? It all boils down to relationship. The student feels more valued by the one teacher than the other.
My students know my credo as I tell them often. They aren't bad kids, some have just made bad choices. Getting students to realize teachers believe in them and "have their back" is pivotal in student success. As a learner, I worked harder and cared more about how I did in classes which had teachers who believed in me. Classes in which the teacher cared and showed they cared.
Students are no different from adults. We work harder and do better when those above us recognize our efforts, appreciate our efforts, and help us achieve more in our efforts. Relationships allow for the latter to take place. Recently a student promised to do better in her other class after a conversation we had in which I expressed my concern over her attitude and grade. It really wasn't anything I did that had an impact, it's that I did something. I showed I cared. I was concerned.
As teachers it may seem daunting to connect with every student, and maybe it is. But we can intentionally work at creating stronger relationships with our students. How do we do that? One student at a time.
Talk to students as they come in for class. Ask about them, their life outside high school. If you know a parent has been sick, ask the student about that parent and ask how the student is doing in dealing with it. Showing interest in students, remembering small things about them, and thanking them for the effort they are putting forth in class are easy ways to develop relationships.
Another key ingredient in the relationship recipe is respect. Always show respect to students. Ask them to do something over, don't tell. Thank them for doing nice work on an assignment. Show them the same type of respect you want as a teacher. The respect road is a two-way street, not a one way. Whatever we expect students to display to us, should be a general practice in our own lives.
Want harder working, higher achieving students? It begins with you, the teacher. Develop relationships with students and let them know you believe in them, are their advocate, and are on their side. Remember, there aren't bad kids, just kids who make bad choices. Help be the change in their lives by establishing a relationship with them. It could just make all the difference.