“Build positive relationships with your students” – Mentors
“Relationships are key to improving behaviour” – Behaviour Experts
“Maintain good relationships with pupils” – Teaching Standard 7
But how exactly can this be done in our classrooms and schools?
Today I would like to share what I learnt from Mark, the Onboard Supervisor on the 12.46 train from London Euston – Crewe on 17th May this year, 2019; because what Mark showed me was how easily and quickly we can build positive relationships – which is of course absolutely key in education.
The key aspects Mark covered are:
- Creating Community
Keep these in mind as I tell my story.
So, to set the scene: I was on the 12.46 up to the Midlands to visit my parents. Trains coming out of London can often be full of commuters and businesspeople very focused on their work, it can be quite rare for eye-contact or passenger interaction to happen.
A couple of minutes before we were due to leave Mark came up over the announcer:
Afternoon folks, unfortunately the driver isn’t here yet – delayed on another train – so please can you all send out some positive vibes to get her/him here soon so that we can leave on time.
It was a positive way to approach the problem. It made people smile, a couple of people in my carriage even chuckled, and he had used inclusive language and pronouns for us as a collective and the driver.
A couple of minutes later Mark congratulated us:
OK folks, you’ve done really well – you must be a great team, because the driver has arrived, and we can get set off.
Mark was referring to us as a collective, making us feel like we were on the same side – which is impressive for a packed commuter train. He referred to this later when we reached ‘signalling problems.’ He reminded us of how well we had done with our collective positive vibes and asked us to do it again to get us through the signals swiftly: re-iterating the community spirit.
The next announcement was the most unusual:
Now folks, when I’m working, I like to have a little bit of fun. I am going to set you two questions to have a think about, maybe a chat with your fellow passengers. The answers to the two questions link in some way. I’ll ask them now and let you know the answers before I get off at Milton Keynes.
I can’t completely remember the questions unfortunately, but the first one asked about who the first people were to create package holidays in the 1800s, and the second one something medical. Pub Quiz style questions for us to puzzle over for the next 45 mins.
Now I was sat next to a businessman, suited with laptop who looked like he just wanted to get on with his work, but Mark had encouraged us to break that barrier down a little – so I engaged the stranger next to me in a conversation about these questions. As I looked around my carriage others were doing the same – more smiles, more eye contact, conversations – between complete strangers. Which, for those of you who are familiar with city public transport you’ll know, this is pretty miraculous. Mark had used play to help us connect – to start building relationships.
At Milton Keynes Mark unfortunately had to get off. He announced the answers to the questions –it was Thomas Cook who created the first package holiday in Britain, and the second answer was something to do with immunisation – which apparently linked to the first because we often have to be immunised to go on holiday. Tenuous – but anyway – he had suspended a sense of play those of us who hadn’t looked it up on the internet.
Finally, Mark shared with us what he was up to that weekend -watching his beloved Wolves play at Wembley for the first time since 1986 apparently, so he was super excited about that.
With this final announcement Mark had shared a bit of himself with us, shared his humanity authentically – he was not just an Onboard Supervisor (who the railways are threatening to get rid of completely to save money), but a human, like his passengers, with his weekend ahead of him. He was authentic.
Mark helped build relationships between a whole (very full) train of strangers using positivity, inclusivity, creating a community, play and authenticity – all ingredients we can use in our schools and with our young people.
Thanks for the reminder and exemplary demonstration Mark.
If anyone knows him, do share this blog!