I Like You.

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People who can’t speak can still understand much of what happens around them. They can tell if you connect with, respect, and like them. Everyone wants to spend time with others who genuinely like them. If a person communicates without words, they might be even more sensitive.

There are some ways that you can convey that you hold someone with high regard. Time magazine says that there are 10 simple ways to get someone to like you.
1. Ask questions.
2. Talk more, not less.
3. Give your time…gratis.
4. Listen better.
5. Really and truly care.
6. Admit it, you don’t know everything.
7. Go for the laugh, every time.
8. Lighten up.
9. Don’t be pushy.
10. Admit your weaknesses.
These ways don’t distinguish between friends, co-workers or those people we support. We want to be likable and be liked.

Everyone gets a gut feeling when someone isn’t being patient with us. We may know by their lack of attention or response. We notice how they speak to us, or how much time they spend on their smartphone. Everyone can read nonverbal signals including the tone of voice and facial expressions.

We know we spend a lot of time directing the people we support. Giving directions is necessary at times. But, directing does not make the person getting directed feel connected. They are less likely to reach out to you and try to communicate. Connecting with others is a basic component of being human. We need to figure out how to like and be liked by the people we support. It is hard to support someone if you don’t like them.

The people we support also need to like us. It is important to build mutual regard with the person you support. Look for and respond to their unique ways of connecting with you. Engage them in conversation, even if they don’t respond by conventional means. Tell jokes, and comment on the world around you. Show an interest in their preferred topics. Look for their unique sense of humor.

By doing so, you build a richer, more connected environment. The people you support benefit, but you benefit as well. When we like people, we open our eyes to learning what they have to teach us. It is part of the job.

Events in February–April 2019

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This is a short video about social inclusion for people with ID. It stresses that we all want to live everyday lives.

Deepen Your Understanding

“Brain research has made clear that humans are as much emotional creatures as cognitive ones. Learning is transactional—not just cognitively, but emotionally. Our thinking is inextricably laced with our feelings. Students—from kindergarteners to high schoolers—look to educators for unconditional acceptance. We hear all the time that our best teachers love their students, regardless of their age or achievement. They love their students before they try before they achieve.

I’ve spent a lot of my career working with overlooked, economically exploited, and abused students. Many of them, like the Latino character in Boyhood, are from minority groups who need to experience caring communication and supportive expectations early and repeatedly in their relationships in school. I’ve often looked a young person in the eye and said, “You’re capable of great things. I believe in you.” I said this before I had rock-solid evidence to support my claims, but the student could hear it only if I truly believed it.

Neuroscience tells us that humans have mirror neurons, the capacity to engender in another person a strong feeling we ourselves are having. When I say “I believe in you,” I’m not a statistician reciting data; I am working in a far deeper vein of human connectedness. My belief in students, my love for them, becomes part of the very wiring of their existence.

There is a spiritual aspect to teaching if you believe you have the ability to help all students experience their innate, best inner selves. As Deepak Chopra (2011) says,

Everyone has a purpose in life … a unique gift or special talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.
Chopra’s language is miles away from the imperative to identify students’ worth by measuring incremental growth on objective criteria.

Making It Happen
Let’s consider some practices that help teachers express unconditional positive regard, that recognize the range of human qualities to value in students, and that don’t encourage meaningless repetitions of “good job.”

• In your own words, say to every student every day—and frequently to the whole class—”You are capable of learning everything in the lessons. I’ll help you succeed as you try. You are all worthwhile people.”

• Make the effort to enjoy every student. Say hello to every one of the first thing every day, with a look in the eye and maybe a handshake or fist bump. Let each of them know that by crossing the threshold of your classroom, in your eyes they are worthy of being part of the class. For students who are wary of adults and push away connections, consistently throw in a quick observation of their uniqueness: “Love that hat” or “Your essay got me thinking.”

• End classes with one minute of students acknowledging one another positively. Model and participate: “I saw Darnell make Seth smile”; “I’m going to be thinking all day about Siobhan’s theory about the election.”

• Let students know you notice and are affected by their special characteristics: “Marie, I was watching you totally focused on your essay. That made my day. I have this image of you hard at work that will make me smile for a long time.” “Chen, when I see how often you help other students, I realize again what caring people do in this world. Thanks.” There will be occasional students who don’t believe you are sincere. For them, your sincerity must be stronger and deeper than their doubt—and must emerge moment after moment, day after day, to overcome their doubt. Building trust and relationships isn’t a one-time event, but a foundation of best practice.

• Praise students even as you give them critical feedback or a consequence: “Jo, you’re going to have to stay after today and clean up that mess you made. I appreciate right now that you’re listening to me calmly and letting me finish my sentence.”

• Give choices and options for lessons and assessments. Highlight for students your discoveries about their unique passions: “Sasha, I’m not surprised you wanted to do the painting option. You get great joy in doing art. I love to watch you having so much fun.”

• Find opportunities (quick e-mails home, comments on report cards, parent-night conversations) to provide a student and his or her parents with information about that student’s unique ways of being. This is for high school teachers, too! The focus on standardized tests doesn’t prevent teachers from sharing other forms of acknowledgment and affirmation.

Offering unconditional positive regard to students may become your favorite daily activity. And the power you have as a role model for others at school—whether you’re the principal or one teacher among many—will ripple out to every corner of the building, leading to a culture that appreciates everyone.”

From: The Power of Positive Regard by Jeffrey Benson http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/jun16/vol73/num09/The-Power-of-Positive-Regard.aspx