To kick off our summer reading series, I want to share one of my all time favorites that I’ve read numerous times: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
The Four Agreements is a staple in our home. Literally, part of the blessing we say at our dinner table is reciting these four agreements (and we added a bonus fifth agreement) before we eat.
For some reason when we first had my son, Jordan and I started saying a dinner blessing more frequently and its morphed into quite an interesting mix of a Christian blessing, a Metta prayer, and then the Four Agreements.
Although he does not yet understand what these powerful agreements are, he dutifully recites them each night we remember to say the blessing. Soon we’ll be able to actually talk about the meaning of each agreement and why it is so important to our family that we include them in this special part of the day.
So without further adieu…what are the actual agreements?
Now you could read the book The Four Agreements in an afternoon (and I highly recommend it) but I’ll give you the Cliff Notes (am I showing my age?) or the Spark Notes (more current, I think) version of the book.
If you keep these four agreements in mind when you’re interacting with anyone, you will find that relationships will improve.
But because we’re talking about teaching well in the classroom and building classroom relationships, I am going to show how these agreements work through that lens.
#1 Always do your best
Some days will be better than others, but our best is always our best on that day. We do our best to meet our students where they are at, and when we have a bad day we try to look at our part with self-compassion.
This builds classroom relationships because if everyone (including our students) are trying to do their best, then we will know that if/when someone is acting differently or struggling with something.
#2 Be impeccable with your word
If we say we’re going to do something, we do it (again…always doing our best to keep our word). This is how trust is built. If we can’t be impeccable with our word, we discuss what happened and why.
Classroom relationships THRIVE on trust. Trust between teacher and students and students and students.
#3 Don’t make assumptions
This is where classroom relationships can really be built. When we don’t make assumptions, we actually get to know the person, their situations, their story. We don’t assume we know a student (i.e. that student you heard about via the team meeting) without actually getting to know the student.
This builds classroom relationships because we learn about each individual student. They get a chance in our classrooms to be seen as their own individual, unique self, not just a previous rap sheet.
#4 Don’t take things personally
This is a tough one for me. I have a script that I need to work on about lateness for class. I always think the student is late because of not respecting my class (or me!). I never consider that they are late because of dropping off a sibling or forgetting something.
I used to center myself instead of looking at each individual and their story. Of course, that doesn’t mean that lateness is excused, but it’s not berated. Instead of saying “where were you” in an accusatory way, I started saying, “how can I help you this morning.”
BONUS….Listen with an open mind and heart
Students need a listening ear and we are blessed enough to be that for students of all ages. We don’t need to be anyone’s counselor and we certainly need to get kids where they need to go if they are in trouble.
But all of our classroom relationships will improve if we show students that we are really listening to them. The modeling of this real listening will help other students learn how to listen to one another.
So there you have it. Building Classroom Relationships 101, in a few simple agreements. If only it was that simple. I guess it’s simple but it’s not always easy!
That’s it the first of our Summer Reading Series…what did you think? Please keep your own recommendation coming to my inbox. I’d love to hear what you are reading this summer!