3 Ways to Build Relationships Into Everyday Practices

We are always fighting against time. There is so much to teach young minds and so little time to fit it all in! Fortunately, weaving relationship-building into the fabric of your daily teaching practice doesn’t have to take hours of team-building activities or trust falls. Here are a few of our favorite ways that educators all across North America are weaving relationships into what they are already doing…

  1. Taking Role: A friend of ours in Texas is on a roll with her simple relationship-building technique. Before she calls out names, once or twice a week she will share a question that would have a one-word answer. As each name is called, she learns something short and simple about each of her students - a much more valuable use of time than “present” or “here” times 30! Some questions might be…

    1. What is one word to describe your weekend?

    2. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life…?

    3. Favorite movie?

    4. The name of your first pet?

    5. The TV show or book you are reading right now?

  2. Entry Task Imagery: A teacher in Washington does a Google Survey at the beginning of the year to gather some humanizing information about his students. Then, after confirming it is okay to share, he incorporates some of this information into his powerpoint slides that has the daily “Do Now.” Each day, in the upper right hand corner, he features one of the students in the class with a piece of information to deepen the classes understanding of who they show up to learn alongside each day. For example, for a whole month you might see a picture of every student’s pets and their pet names. The next month, it might be a picture of a student’s favorite place to relax.

  3. “What Have You Done For Others Today?”: One of our favorite math teachers in Connell, WA has an entire wall dedicated to the question that doesn’t get asked enough: “What Have You Done For Others Today?” He says that if his class ever has a few extra minutes at the end, he points to the wall and asks the room the question. In his own words, “I witness them thinking through their day trying find a point in time where they have helped others…Sometimes it turns into a classroom full of laughter, other times it turns into a more serious conversation. I never imagined such a simple quote could change the dynamics of my classroom in such a positive way.”

We don’t need a lot of time to build better communities - we just need to change the way we are using the time we already have. Share with us in the comments below your favorite way to incorporate meaningful relationships and conversations into your daily teaching practice!

If Surgeons Have to be Reminded to Wash Their Hands…

I was recently at a conference on Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) and was able to hear long-time Educational Consultant Randy Sprick present. Randy Sprick is an educational consultant and trainer in Eugene, Oregon who was the primary author of Safe and Civil Schools. I was inspired by Randy’s wealth of knowledge and ability to give practical and helpful tips for teachers and administrators to implement immediately in their classroom and schools.


One analogy that Randy provided really stuck with me. He mentioned how hospitals each year have to find new and creative ways to remind surgeons to wash their hands. The studies show that if hospitals do not regularly remind doctors to wash their hands, only approximately 50% would do so. We also know that if surgeons don’t wash their hands, the chance for infection and death increase dramatically for that patient. If surgeons have to be reminded to wash their hands, we definitely need to remind ourselves of the importance to intentionally build our character. We need to be reminded more than we need to be taught and so do our students.

If surgeons have to be reminded to wash their hands, we definitely need to remind ourselves of the importance to intentionally build our character. We need to be reminded more than we need to be taught and so do our students.

We know from the research of psychologist, Angela Duckworth, that it is actually character traits like grit and self-control that are higher indicators of success than a student’s grade point average, IQ, or SAT score. We need to teach both academics and character to our students. We need to find ways to remind them daily about what good character looks like. At CharacterStrong it is a core belief that students want to do good, they just don’t always know what good looks like.


To do this we need to provide training, ideas, and most importantly a solid example of what strong character looks like. We need to present our students with a consistent and predictable environment that they can count on. We need to grant teachers the training needed to be successful in building positive relationships and managing a classroom in a proactive way, since so much of our time is spent reacting. Many schools measure the climate and culture of a building using questions about a student's feeling of whether there is at least one caring adult in the school that believes in them. What is your school doing to intentionally teach the whole child? What are you doing?

In order to develop normally, a child requires activity with one or more adults who have an irrational emotional relationship with the child. Somebody’s got to be crazy about that kid. That’s number one, first, last, and always. -Urie Bronfenbrenner Co-founder of Head Start

To learn more about how to intentionally teach, reinforce and model strong character traits visit www.characterstrong.com/educators to learn more about our CharacterStrong Educator Trainings.

Character Day 2017

Today is a day we are excited to celebrate as people all over the globe will be participating in #CharacterDay2017 created by Let it Ripple. The goal of Character Day is to spend time within your classroom, school, home...really anywhere, discussing what it looks like to focus on improving one’s character. Let it Ripple has quite a few free resources, including this great video called “The Science of Character” that you can show in your classes today. The video points out what we know to be true, that if you focus on character traits and intentionally look at how you can improve them, an individual can strengthen their character thus improving their own lives, but those around them as well.

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The Journal [Blog Post]

At Arapahoe High School in Colorado, they refuse to be defined by a tragedy. In 2013, a school shooting left one girl, Claire Davis, dead and a school in shock. Days later, the Davis’ family spoke to the school and said they forgave the boy and that the school must pursue Love - not bitterness or hate or anger...

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The Apology [Blog Post]

It’s pretty common, especially in a larger school, that there will be someone in the audience at an assembly that doesn’t want to pay attention. Usually, a dramatic pause or a carefully placed moment of direct eye contact (aka the “Teacher Look”) will remind the student that they can still be respectful whilst uninterested. More rare is the reoccurring pain in the butt...

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How Teaching Servant-Leadership and Character Impacted One School

There are few people in this world who will disagree with you when you ask them if we should be teaching our students how to be more kind, patient, committed or humble, but it’s not everyday that you come across a school that builds their master schedule with one teacher whose full-time job is to teach students what solid character looks like. Inglewood Middle School is doing just that and has data to support the fact that it is changing their school’s climate and culture for the better and has seen a decrease in out of school suspensions by 90% since emphasizing the importance of teaching character-development during the school day.

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5 Success Tips for Strengthening Your Student Leadership Team

Being a student activities coordinator is challenging. But even more challenging is being a student activities coordinator for over a decade. You really have to be in touch with your why to make it through the busy Fall when you are working 80+ hour weeks, the winters where you come to work in the dark and leave in the dark, and the long springs where you are doing everything possible to motivate your student leaders to the very last day to fight back that ever present “senioritis”.

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5 Sentences Your Students Need to Hear From You

1. “I think you’d be good at it.”

In close to 20 years of working with a state student leadership program, I can tell you that the line I hear more than any other on why a student decided to step up and have the courage to get involved or run for office is, “I think you’d be good at it.” There is something about this simple, yet powerful statement that causes people to act and push their comfort zones. Maybe it has something to do with meeting the basic human need that all people have, which is to be paid attention to and appreciated.

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Targeted Impact - Mini Lesson

Have you ever been frustrated with your brainstorming process? Have you felt like your projects have been disconnected from the people they are serving? Do your Kindness Weeks feel too generic? Check out this simple technique for brainstorming your next Recognition or Spirit or Kindness or Character or Love Week or Month so that you maximize your impact by getting specific about who you are serving!


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About The Author

Houston Kraft is a professional speaker, leadership consultant, and kindness advocate who speaks to middle schools, high schools, colleges, and businesses across the country. He has spoken to nearly a half a million people nationwide at nearly 500 events and counting.

Safe vs Supported

I was at a school recently that had just gotten their results back from a school climate and student safety survey they had done. The principal said one of the things that stood out was that 9 students who had self-identified as LGBTQ said they felt safe on campus, but not supported. It would be easy to dismiss it, but this principal was excited about opening up the conversation. His plan?

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Fun Hat Trick Video

Here at CharacterStrong we know how crazy the last two weeks have been due to semester change, snowstorms, school closures/delays and for some of us learning 150 new student names! As a small token of our appreciation for what you do each day we wanted to give you a fun hat trick video you could use at your next assembly or a fun way to end class tomorrow! Hang in there, it's almost a long weekend!


The Family

I met a boy last week at a middle school who is in the transgender process. Born a female, but identifies as a male. The teacher introduced me to him specifically saying that he embodied so much of what I talked about - kindness, empathy, hope. His name is Chuck and Chuck started  one of the most simple but profoundly cool groups on his campus I’ve heard of yet.

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