May 30, 2017
Last week I was on Twitter and this came across my feed:
I read it, retweeted it, and went along my way for the rest of the day. On my ride home that day, I had a conversation with a colleague and we discussed the importance of classroom teachers making connections with students. We agreed that mountains can be moved and true progress can occur when teachers and students connect beyond the curriculum.
Over the next few days, I spent some time thinking about my 20 plus years in education, the classes I have taken, and the conversations I have had with teachers, administrators, and peers about the importance of building relationships in schools.
As a principal, I would always show Rita Pierson’s TED Talk to new teachers. There are two quotes from that TED Talk that always resonated with me and speak to this Tweet. At the start of her talk she says:
Our kids, all kids, deserve that adult, that teacher, who connects with them and lets them know that they can achieve and accomplish anything they set their minds and hearts to.
Towards the end of the talk she says:
One can argue the merits of this statement, however there is a lot of truth to it. Some students do not learn from those teachers that they fail to connect with. Why did I show this video to new teachers? Because I believe in the importance of connections and building those relationships with students. As James Comer writes, “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.”
Nine years ago, my first class at Northeastern University was taught by Ashland’s own, Dick Cunningham. One of the texts for the course was Michael Fullan’s book Leading in a Culture of Change. And one of the chapters of the book was called “Relationships, Relationships, Relationships.” The chapter spoke to the importance of building relationships, regardless of your role in education, in order to make change happen. I have never forgotten the class discussion that day. We spoke about the importance of teachers building relationships with students in order to impact learning. We spoke about the importance of school leaders building relationships with staff to implement initiatives and drive change to improve student performance and outcomes. And we spoke to the importance of district leaders building relationships with schools and the community in order to make certain that teachers have what they need to do their jobs to help kids learn and close the achievement gap.
The examples and stories can continue about the importance of relationship building and the positive impact it has on everything we do. As the school year draws to I close, I ask each of you to think about how you have built relationships over the year and how it has positively impacted the learning in your classrooms.