We all know that relationships matter in education.
We all know they matter, right?
I mean they really make a difference. As in, almost anything you do can be a success with a meaningful relationship, or a miserable failure without one.
Relationships are the conduit for communicating genuine care, which is essential to developing trust, which is critical to active engagement, which hopefully leads to positive outcomes (i.e. learning).
Forgo the relationship, lose the trust, decrease engagement, and diminish outcomes.
It works the same at almost any level. Teacher and student. Staff and administration. Student and class. Staff and parents. School and community.
2020 has been a lot of miserable things, but it has also presented an opportunity to focus on building positive relationships — with individual students, in classrooms, in schools, and in communities. I would argue that this is what our kids (and adults) need more than anything right now. Knowing that someone cares about them. Their mental and physical health. Their material needs. Their concerns and fears. And then, maybe, their academic progress.
I grow tired of the expression that our kids are “falling behind.” In my humble opinion, they are only losing ground to relatively arbitrary standards set by someone who may, or may not, have the best interest of kids at heart. For instance, standards established by companies that profit from standardized testing.
Let’s face it. A lot of adults are struggling to manage the challenges of the year. This should be a cue for how we operate in schools. It can’t be business as usual.
What do you want from others? Kindness? Patience? Empathy? To feel cared for and safe? The opportunity to grieve/process? It’s the same for our kids and members of our school communities.
Kids are resilient. They will be okay as long as the adults in their world take them seriously, demonstrate appropriate levels of concern and support, and refrain from catastrophizing their educational situation. This year is not going to do irreparable academic damage to our students. Our far greater concern should be the long-term inequity of what is largely a “one-size fits all” education system. One that routinely leaves students on the margins behind — even when there isn’t a pandemic gripping the world.
So what do we do?
The best that we can. Keep teaching. Keep engaging students in learning opportunities. Appropriately challenge kids. Just make sure you really believe, and invest, in the power of relationships. Show you care. Show grace. Be patient. Listen. Academic set-backs inflicted by the past year can be remedied. It is the relational, social-emotional, and damage to trust that will be most challenging to repair.
Have faith in the resiliency of kids.
Do your best to keep everyone safe.
Hope is on the horizon.