Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Promoting Character: The Priority of Relationships to Students

As teachers, we're often consumed with our teaching to the neglect of our attitudes/relationships with students. That can be detrimental when we're teaching for life change.

According to an article in The Clinical Psychologist (Empirically Supported Therapy Relationships, by Norcross and Hill, VOL 57 - No 3 - Summer 2004), studies have found that the relationship of the counselor with the patient is more important than the technique used in counseling.

Applying this to promoting character, don't just design riveting discussions of character; pay attention to your relationships with your students. To be specific, be open to feedback, be empathetic, foster a good emotional climate in the classroom.

Carl Rogers' definition of empathy guided much of this research:

"empathy is the therapist's sensitive ability and willingness to understand clients' thoughts, feelings, and struggles from their point of view. In other words, empathy involves entering the private, perceptual world of the other."

Early research indicates that another trait for positive outcomes is "positive regard", defined as:

"warm acceptance of the client's experience without conditions, a prizing, an affirmation, and a deep non possessive caring."

Finally, pay attention to what might work for each individual student. Know your students! One might respond better to one method and another to a very different method.

Want to add to this discussion? Enter it below!

J. Steve Miller writes for Legacy Educational Resources