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Building Positive Relationships (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Apr 30, 2014

Sense of Belonging

Students at all ages have a strong need to belong to groups. The desire to fit in provides a major source of motivation and—at times—challenges to school rules. Students may feel conflicting desires to belong to an ethnic or cultural group, girls’ or boys’ athletic teams, or any one of a number of other groups. Learning to work positively within a social group is important to maturity.

Students strengthen their sense of self-worth when they receive recognition, approval, appreciation, and respect from their peers. Lessons should promote inclusion and acceptance of all students. You can promote these important feelings in the classroom by using cooperative and collaborative learning and classroom projects. Lessons should draw on the diversity of languages and skills students bring to school. Make every attempt to recognize leaders, authors, scientists, filmmakers, and teachers from all cultural groups.

Deliberately developing peer support groups and recognizing the diversity of talents—for language, music, math, social leadership, and so on—help students to develop a sense of belonging to one or more of the groups in school.

By adolescence, group affiliation can at times challenge school rules and norms. Teen culture, like African American, Latino, or teacher culture, must be respected. If schools set themselves against teen culture, the conflict will destroy many students. Only negative aspects of teen culture, such as drugs, violence, and theft, should be opposed (Garcia, 2001; Reveles, 2000). In the many classrooms and schools that seek to impose a Euro-centered culture and to defeat teen culture, student conflict and opposition can reach destructive levels. Defeated students withdraw from school and peers; they become isolated, alienated, lonely, and, at times, dangerous to themselves and to others.

Principals have turned to peer conflict resolution and gang and narcotics units of police departments to augment inadequate resources for gang intervention. Students need to be recruited and encouraged to support the positive aspects of school through clubs, team building, conflict resolution, and leadership development programs. The school must become a student-friendly, safe environment.

Self-Esteem

The theories of promotion of positive self-esteem derive primarily from a humanistic psychology that has taken too-limited notice of cultural differences. Behavior that would illustrate a positive self-concept in one culture, such as assertiveness, might be interpreted as a sign of poor education in another (Bruner, 1996). Separate from this debate, teachers have developed a series of classroom strategies to encourage students to conduct themselves appropriately.

A Sense of Direction

Although young students often accept the direction of their parents and the school, by adolescence many students are redefining their roles and their choices. Some students need repeated lessons on setting goals and establishing their own sense of responsibility and direction. Students can learn to make decisions and identify consequences. Experiential education programs and outdoor programs help students with goal setting and motivation. Through coaching and counseling, teachers can help students make preliminary career and college choices. Teachers serving as advisors to clubs—such as MECHA, MAYA, African American clubs, ski clubs, teams, and journalism clubs—often play important roles in helping students to define and to select their future.

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