Last week, a student at my school was removed from class and sent to my office with a discipline referral. He had refused to complete class work, was openly defiant to the teacher, and he had gang tagging written all over his arms/hands and in his notebook. He was an angry young man. This was a student lacking any meaningful connection to school, and little reason to care about academics, or behavior.
Reflecting on my interactions with this student, it was apparent that until we gain his trust and help him develop positive connections, school will not be a priority for him. Not an easy task. There cannot be enough emphasis placed on the importance of relationships in education. We should not make the mistake of over emphasizing curriculum at the expense of personal relationships. To do so condemns many students to disengagement and failure. For students like the young man I met with last week, academic growth will only happen when they feel a personal connection to school.
So many kids are looking for an adult who cares, demonstrates empathy, expects something of them and holds them accountable. Make it your goal to be that person for at least one student.