Rebuilding Relationships in the Classroom with Steve

When you meet Steve Bollar, you’re left with a lasting impression of his infectious energy for life and passion for the world of education. 

In the first post from my interview with Steven Bollar, we were introduced to his fun and inspiring approach to life. We learned about his approach to education and overcoming obstacles in education, to his approach of openly sharing his knowledge, experiences, and creativity with others

In this second part, we cover his approach to rebuilding relationships in the classroom and discover more about his perceptions of the Education industry, both globally and in the United States. 

In the spirit of his approach to sharing his experience, Steve shares some advice on how best we can all work together to rebuild relationships between staff and students in this new year! 

If you’re looking for some inspiration or tips on how to rekindle the spark with your students or peers, Steve has some pearls of wisdom to share through his Seven-week Staff to Student Challenge.

Let’s jump in and get right to it!

Rebuild relationships between staff and students

1. What invaluable advice can you give to fellow educators about motivating students during blended learning or general tips for how to cope?

I’ve always said this but I’m pushing it more now. “Reduce, not eliminate”.  I say that because a lot of times in education when we have challenges, either attendance, behavioral, or even falling back on learning, what we do is we get together a committee. We get the PLC to sit down and figure out ways to eliminate the challenges. However, they are not going to be able to eliminate it.

“reduce, not eliminate”

People are people, kids are kids and issues are issues, but what you can do, is educators can come together and say “what can we do to reduce it”, now that is working in a realm of reality.

If you are constantly thinking “these kids aren’t behaving” then focus on reducing because if you can reduce the issues, problems, and concerns, it automatically increases the probability for teachers to do what they really want to do…TEACH!

2. What do you think educators can take away from their dealings with the challenges that have arisen through the pandemic?

I believe coming out of this, we all had high hopes because, at the beginning of the pandemic, we all said, “Welcome to the new normal!” 

That was not the new normal. That was transition and during the transition, you learn. Teachers and educators learned a whole lot during this transition.

The new normal starts now and educators need to realize that because, when we go back, it is not business as usual because your students have been at home doing their own thing.

“The new normal starts now and educators need to realize that…”

This is why I think coming into this new normal, we need to focus on developing and in some cases, establishing those relationships with kids and even relationships with each other as educators. 

You need to develop relationships as we have got to get to know each other again. You have a student that was in 6th grade, that was the last time he was in school, now he’s in 8th grade – that’s almost 2 years. They don’t know you, so work on developing those relationships, get the content going through these relationships, give it a little bit and we’ll get there. It’s these relationships that are so important in driving learning, and then we will get to the content of the lessons, once relationships have been created.

You can’t just assume kids will listen to you because you’re an adult. Take some time to develop a healthy student relationship, that’s the keyword healthy. I think it is important, as some kids don’t know what a healthy adult relationship is, and it’s up to us to show them how to create them, and then as importantly, maintain them.


3. What is your Mantra for the year?

At the beginning of the year, I did a webinar and I said “Having fun in 2021.” That was it. Having fun throughout 2021. I had some fun but things changed and I didn’t have the time but it has now morphed into just for me and my business, “Provide value, invite engagement.”

“Provide value, invite engagement.”

With that goal/ambition/guiding force, for my business and what I do for schools and educators everywhere, I want to provide as much value as I can. I’m providing free templates, forms, documents, you name it. This whole year, I’ve done a free webinar once a month. Just log on and you get one hour free. When I go and I speak at places, even if they hire me, I give away free resources, like I give a Google folder full of free resources to the participants.

So I provide as much value as I can and then on the back end of that, I invite engagement. So that mantra, that formula even,  it’s worked. I’ve made amazing connections with people. I’m helping people. I have no guilt giving stuff away now because I know that some people who are in this space, they’re like: “oh that’s mine, I’m not gonna share that, you’ve got to pay for this…” but, I’m going to give as much away as I possibly can and then I’m just gonna invite you to benefit from it,  because if people are like, oh my goodness, thank you, you’re so generous, then I invite them to engage with me and they do, I help more people that way. So it went from having fun in 2021 to Provide Value, Invite Engagement.

“So it went from ‘Having Fun in 2021’ to ‘Provide Value Invite Engagement.’”

4. What advice would you give to teachers to get children back to speed?

Teaching isn’t just teaching. Teaching is half of what you do. The other half of what you do is interact with kids and we’re forgetting that because we were away from them and we want them to fit within that box of being taught. So we need to set up situations that are simple and easy to do. That will allow the kids and allow the teachers to develop better relationships with them.

“Teaching is half of what you do. The other half of what you do is interact with kids…”

Now, I came up with this challenge I named the “ Seven Week Teacher to Student Relationship Challenge ”. What is it? It’s a challenge for teachers to develop better relationships with their students.

In the first week teachers are going to find a new student every day and learn their first name, and then say something to them in a nice way, using that student’s first name. 

Let’s say that you have 40 teachers in the building. If you have 40 teachers every day for one week, find a student that they don’t know. Imagine the conversation between the teacher and a student; “Hey Trick, “How do you know my name?”  “But everybody knows you Trick, how are you doing?” Is that gonna make something better? Yes, it’s easy. It’s simple but it is a powerful way to develop those relationships. Teachers can still focus on content, on the lessons, to address everything they want. But this relationship building is powerful and impactful.

Now the second week, we’re gonna compliment kids, maybe their sneakers, once a day. Teachers will have to find a kid who has nice sneakers. Then say, “Okay Trick? Nice kicks, I like them.”, or even “I like those crocs, I got the same at home too.” That’s all you’re gonna do. The students will be like, what’s going on around here, right? 

In the third week, we’re going to point at a kid and thumbs up. What I mean by that is when you’re in the hallway and you see a kid, point at him and then when they check you’re referring to them, give them a thumbs up, and just walk away. That’s it. That’s all you’re gonna do. The kids are going to be like, what’s going on, but that’s going to make a kid smile. They will also start doing it back and forth with each other.

All right, next week, your outfit, you’re gonna say, “Hey, nice outfit” once a day. Just pick one kid, a kid you don’t know, and compliment their outfit. See, these are tiny little things that can be done and what do they do? They develop relationships, very simply and easily. The kids start to feel good about themselves and each other. So now when you have to discipline someone, what’s the probability of them listening? If you have a relationship to work from, already, it is much, much higher! 

I think, as kids and adults, we don’t know how to interact with each other anymore. We’re out of practice. So we need to find ways to purposely have little themes, little tiny goals, little tiny things that we can inch it up with. But the thing is, everybody’s so busy, you don’t have time to do it. That’s why I created this challenge, and others like it, they provide value and create engagement. I give this stuff out for free. I know what I’m good at and that is coming up with ideas. I’m an idea guy.

5. How has your creative expression evolved?

I started as an art teacher, I taught art painting, drawing, etc. People don’t realize I’m a classically trained artist, I can paint or draw anything and my minor was music. I’m a musician. So me being super crazy creative, everyone was like he is an art teacher, let him go. When I became an administrator, that’s when things started to cause problems because I’m super creative and administration is very rigid. I did have an enormous amount of difficulty, altering my approach so that it fits within that role.

But ultimately there was a school that I became a principal of, it was an upper elementary school, it was fifth grade and sixth grade. I just had two grades, 1200 students, I had a superintendent director who understood my creativity and allowed me to be more creative. I was there for eight years as a school leader and through that process, I started to do more creative leading, and I would check in with her.

I got some guidance on how to align my creativity so that it fits and is palatable for people, so now that I do this full time, I can help other people exercise their creativity and bring that transition in from a rigid structure to a more creative structure. So thank you, Doctor Rath, for your guidance.

“I got some guidance on how to align my creativity so that it fits and it’s palatable for people so now”

There are a few schools I consult year-round with, they hired me on and even with consultations, the most value that I bring is when I sit on those meetings – they bring me in virtually to sit in on those meetings. Whenever they have a brainstorm or they’re trying to figure out something, I’m a bridge. I can bridge the creative stuff to the logistical, I’m pretty good at finding what the important element is and pulling that out to make a connection.

It’s hard because I usually deal with a few schools at a time. I need everybody to hear this because if you overwork yourself going from school to school to school the stress will get to you. The whole concept of reducing not eliminating, that alone, makes the difference. We could just work in the area of reducing and reducing, I would say it is going to be 1% better each day. If you can do 1% each day, how much better will everybody be at the end of the school year? When you reduce it increases the probability of success.

 More from Stand Tall Steve.

Thanks again to Steve for taking the time to chat with us, and I hope that our readers are motivated to reduce, not eliminate. It was an absolute pleasure speaking with you. After the shift that the pandemic has caused in so many of our lives, many of us can benefit from remembering just how influential educators are and that they are our superheroes.

In the first part of this series, we discover his approach to openly sharing his knowledge, experiences, and creativity with others. Discover more about Stand Tall Steve and all the amazing work he gets up to.



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