Building Meaningful Relationships at Whytecliff
At Whytecliff, children point to the power of good relationships as a key determinant of their positive outcomes. In our supportive program, children feel cared about and are encouraged to care about each other.
In Whytecliff’s individualized group program, building a “community of learning” begins with having the right staff – a team that’s compassionate & considerate and recognizes the primary importance of seeing the world through the child’s eyes. Staff at Whytecliff understand the value of embodying an ‘ethic of care’ that provides care in a way that a child wants to be cared for.
We will not just give up. We will be there through the tough times with them. It’s easy to be there with them when things are going well, but we are not just going to give up on them when they are having a tough time. That is where change becomes more permanent, because
you have changed their inner view of themselves; and that is the big important thing. Because if you don’t change their inner view, then it is just window dressing
–it’s not real.
-Dr. Phil Mann
Whytecliff Principal Emeritus
One way we build strong relationships – between students and staff, and between children and other youth – is through storytelling. Children are hard-wired for stories – it’s one of the main ways we humans make sense of experience. And through relating their stories, children access their creativity and establish a sense of identity.
Another way to foster strong student-teacher relationships is through deep listening, a skill we prioritize among our teachers and staff. Deep listening involves eye contact, nonverbal feedback, and connection – being fully present and listening in an empathetic, receptive, caring manner. (We find that if one makes the time and space to listen closely, children will offer (often between the lines) what they really need in order to grow).
Ultimately, good relationships are built on both bonds and bridges. Through the process of sharing, children form bonds built on common experience, and group cohesion grows. Through the reciprocal process of dialogue, children form bridges that help them understand and appreciate each others’ differences.
As youth start to feel safe, accepted, and understood, true community starts to develop in the program, and allows us as a community to:
- identify and provide the right developmental factors for the youth;
- ensure that the right conditions/resources for growth are present;
- help students gain the right understandings/experiences;
- remove/reduce any obstacles or barriers to growth;
- encourage and reinforce growth-seeking attitudes and behaviour (growth mindset).
Many of the things we do in the community allow kids to interact with each other naturally, in pairs and in groups. By engaging in cooperative learning, kids develop valuable interpersonal skills.
We also work closely with families to strengthen the resources and skills of our youth, helping them build realistic expectations of relationships and avoid destructive ways of relating to one another. A family worker regularly meets with the family to review the participation plan, schedules, discuss family challenges and support needs. Parents, caregivers, foster parents and siblings are encouraged to meet the staff, participate in learning centre and community activities.