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What is Relationship Differentiation?
It is true that teachers treat some students differently than others, not because they favor one student over another, but because different students require different relationships. Differentiation in relationship is a way that teachers change how they interact with students based on what the students need. You probably do this without even knowing, even if you aren’t a teacher. Do you talk to your significant other the same way you talk to your children? Do you have the same relationship with your doctor as with a coworker? The answer, probably not. People treat other people differently whether it is intentional or not.
As teachers we are told to treat all students equally and fairly. I know in my experience, I definitely treat all my students fairly….but equally? I do not favor one student over another, but with each student comes a different set of strengths and needs, likes and dislikes, behaviors, and attitudes. My job is to find out what makes the student work to their fullest potential. This can be done by differentiating the relationship that I have with each student.
Special education allows teachers to provide for accommodations and modifications to give students specially designed instruction in order for them to meet their goals and be successful. Think of making accommodations in how you interact with the students. Let me give an example. There is a student who is really hard to have a relationship with, but in working with the student you find that they are really into football. How do you develop a relationship with this student? Talk about football, of course. There is another student that only ever talks about animals, well, you will talk to them about animals.
Educators need to find out what really interests students in order to develop good relationships with them. Again, this is referring to differentiation in relationship with our students. You may not like what interests students, but if it is a way to get through to them, then you need to do it to best help the student.
The relationship that you build with your students will eventually lead to establishing a good rapport with your students. This is something that every good teacher needs to do. You don’t need the students to like you or be your best friend, but you do need them to respect you. By finding out what makes each student tick and be successful, you are showing him or her that you care. Some students may not have someone at home that really cares about them, but at least they know that when they are in school, their teacher is there to care.
It is important to remember that you are not trying to favor students, but you are trying to build that level of trust with them so their educational experience is fun and exciting. Differentiating how you interact with your students and building a different relationship with each student will only provide for a better day for both you and your students. Motivate students based on what motivates them.