Buiding Meaningful Relationships With Diverse Children


Ballroom E

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills


The strands that this program touches is Head & Heart: This program undergrids the academic process and interlocks with the social and emotional skills that are needed for urban at-risk youth to be able build on their life experiences and be successful.

Brief Program Description

This program gives applicable strategies to build meaningful relationships with todays urban youth who are at-risk and screaming for structure, love, parenting and guidance.


Within this presentation I will present the 5R's of education and how they play a monumental part in building relationships with diverse students in the educational realm. We also speak to and go deep in the emotional health of PTSD vs. Hood disease issues as they relate to building relationships with diverse students. With this presentation attendees will be able to better build a solid and long lasting relationships with diverse students that heals broken bonds and trust across all ethnic lines.


Ways to Build Relationships with Urban Children

John C. Maxwell has been credited with the quote “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.1" Children can be very simple in their needs. They want to be liked and accepted and know security and safety with the adults in their lives. As an educator in an urban community, it is vital to be sensitive to your student’s needs to establish a safe and nurturing relationship. Children are taught to be cautious and guarded when dealing with others outside their familial relationships. Living in urban communities may add to a child’s distrust and un-attachment as well. The following are suggestions to facilitate relationships with students in urban communities.

  • Interact with students outside the classroom. Occasionally joining students for lunch in the cafeteria or playing with them during recess will help students feel more comfortable and connected with you. They form bonds of relationships other than that of teacher-student.
  • Send positive messages home. Students are given tangible evidence that you care when you are willing to brag about the positive attributes you see in them. It means a lot to them that others know they are liked by their teachers.
  • Make instruction relevant. Many urban students have a difficult time identifying with the core curriculum or the themes of literature in class. Tailoring lessons that reflect their interests will help students not only comprehend the skills being taught, but give evidence that you understand and relate to them.
  • Allow students to select topics of interest to write about. Writing is one of the most effective ways to share personal thoughts and feelings. Allowing students to write about what they know and are interested in, and giving them time to share with you and their classmates gives students a sense of validation and acceptance.
  • Connect with them culturally. Education in America tends to focus on the dominate culture’s experiences, holidays and traditions. More effort should be given to include other cultural norms into classroom instruction.
  • Be the student. Give students an opportunity to teach you something they know and make an effort to learn what they are sharing with you. I remember watching an episode on the Oprah Winfrey Show, recognizing the accomplishments of Ron Clark, the 2001 Disney Teacher of the Year. During the interview, he demonstrated the Harlem Shake, a dance he learned from his students. It was interesting watching this preppy young man move like urban city kids on the dance floor.
  • Get to know their family members. Don’t be afraid to accept invitations to birthday parties or events at your students’ social events. You can also invite parents to your class (Muffins with Mom, Donuts with Dad). Have them share about special family customs in writing or oral reports.
  • Kindness and words of praise. Everyone wants to feel liked and accepted. Randomly offer praise, and not just about academic achievements or good behavior. Compliment a hairstyle or article of clothing. Praise them for a good idea or thought shared during discussion.
  • Open up about your life to them. Don’t burden students about struggles and problems you have in your personal or professional life. Share with them things you are interested in, or hobbies you may have. It doesn’t have to be a scheduled time of “Show and Tell” (although that can be affective, especially when each child has a chance to share and bring something that represents their interests).
  • Be Alert to Their Emotional Needs. There will be times when a student needs to share a personal issue. Take time to listen; or, just communicate your concern if they are not ready to share. When students’ trust, respect and are emotionally connected with their teacher, they are willing and enthusiastic about what they are learning. They transfer their connection from you to the subject you are teaching. They are more willing to open up and allow you to see what makes them “tick”; which enables you to lead them to academic success.


Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

MDonnell Tenner was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised via Lambert, Mississippi and East Saint Paul, Minnesota. The only boy in a family with three sisters, he learned early on in life about having a strong work ethic and how education is the key foundation to success. His strong faith in God and a willingness to understand from whence he came keep him grounded and determined never to stop helping the communities he is from. He is a descendant of slaves two generations removed. He also is a descendant of the Cherokee Indian nation. Throughout his life, Tenner’s teachers did not give him the direction he now knows he should have received. His strength comes from his mother who enlisted in the army to help provide for him and his siblings. At fourteen years old, he forged his birth certificate and worked forty hours or more a week in the summers so his mother would not have to provide for his school clothes, athletic fees and equipment.

Upon graduating from high school in the top half of his class, Tenner was able to keep his focus while playing collegiate football and receiving a degree in sports management with a minor in business administration as well as stints in the CFL Canadian Football League and the AFL Arena Football League respectively. He went on to earn his Master’s degree in educational administration from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, along with his K-12 Principal certification and Superintendency certification. He is currently finishing his Doctorate with Nova Southeastern University in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies with a minor in Urban Education. MDonnell Tenner states about himself, “My motto is ‘Can’t stop, won’t stop, NEVER.’ I will not rest until all children, whatever race, color and or creed, are getting equitable education experiences and the gap is significantly closed.”

MDonnell Tenner is a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He is a gifted motivational speaker, mentor, educator, author, as well as a proven creative “out-of-the–box” urban educator who gets results. His future goal is to make official visits to all urban school districts throughout the nation, empowering students, teachers and parents them motivational talks and workshops.

Keyword Descriptors

urban education, at-risk students, achievement gap, black, latino

Presentation Year


Start Date

3-9-2016 9:45 AM

End Date

3-9-2016 11:00 AM

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Mar 9th, 9:45 AM Mar 9th, 11:00 AM

Buiding Meaningful Relationships With Diverse Children

Ballroom E

This program gives applicable strategies to build meaningful relationships with todays urban youth who are at-risk and screaming for structure, love, parenting and guidance.