After years working in independent schools, and hearing about all of the cutting edge new pedagogy, curricula, brain-based education etc, I keep coming back to one very simple, yet complexly deep idea- relationships are at the center of everything we do as educators.
An integral relationship that often goes un-nurtured is the one amongst the adults in a school community. While collaboration is a concept that we talk about, the purposeful relationship development necessary for high levels of collaboration represents a step in the process that is often overlooked. Educational leaders need to be mindful and aware of how relationships develop between colleagues. A proactive approach, rather than a reactive one will yield greater bonds, and thus greater efficacy amongst the group. This efficacy and unity allows us to model for students the positive results of respect, trust, collaboration, reconciliation, cooperation, and empathy. Further, building and fostering relationships with the parents, and modeling the same cooperative behaviors in our relationships with them, creates a 360 degree advocacy for each student. This universal, multi-layered advocacy benefits the student, school, teachers, and families involved.
We also need to build strong relationships with all of our students. Students who feel that their teachers really care for them and are advocates for them will learn better. Further, encouraging strong relationships amongst peers represents yet another integral layer of advocacy. When students support each other academically, socially, creatively, athletically etc, that relationship renders the potential of the whole class nearly limitless. Extending beyond the walls of the building in the increasingly globalized world, we need to build relationships with our community- school, local, state, national and global.
Transcending the human relationships, in the classroom, we need to build relationships between new and existing skills, knowledge, and understandings. Likewise, we need to build relationships between the academic experience and authentic experiences. Linearly, the continuum of great school experience relies heavily on our ability to both build relationships across grade levels and to build relationships across the different disciplines
The inter-connectedness of people, ideas, skills, content, philosophies, ideologies and processes allows us to create optimal learning environs for our students. While the utopian ideal is likely not to be realized, the process of pursuing it will once again represent a model for our children to emulate as they become the creators, developers, and leaders of the future.