They Don’t Bite!

Contrary to popular belief, middle school students, for the most part,


Education researchers agree that students will resist rules and procedures, as well as disciplinary consequences, unless a firm relationship foundation has been established.  This relationship is especially important at the middle school level!

Our key strategic focus this year at Timberview Middle School is “enhancing student relationships.”  If we asked every teacher on our campus how important “enhancing student relationships” is to the development and education of our students, I am confident that 100% would say, “very important,” or even, “the most important thing!”

But what does it mean to “enhance student relationships?”  And how do we know if we’ve succeeded?  We can talk about the importance of developing relationships.  We can create lists of strategies.  We can read books, attend conferences, and follow the “experts” on Twitter!  The truth is, no kid cares about any of that.  They just want to know that you care!  And in my opinion, this is how they know:

Bring yourself to their level,  and trust that they, in fact, won’t bite!

Psychologists tell us there are four levels of social distance that can occur:

  • Public Distance (12-25 ft)
  • Social Distance (4-12 ft)
  • Personal Distance (1.5-4 ft)
  • Intimate Distance (6-18 in)

I realize that a large amount of teaching occurs at the Public Distance. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day, or teachers available, to spend all of our time in the Personal Distance.  But spending at least a little time there everyday will help develop those relationships that are so important to learning.

I challenge you this week, whether you are a teacher, parent, school volunteer, or other position where relationship building is important, to spend some time in the Personal Distance.


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