One cliche that has made its rounds in education in the past decade is that “rigor, relevance and relationships” are the three keys to a successful high school education.

And I guess it would be hard to argue against the idea that a challenging curriculum connected to student interests and delivered by people who enjoy working with teens would produce better results than unrelated fluff presented by militant old women who tracked out ages ago and are waiting for a retirement package, huh?

(Did that bring back bad memories for anyone other than me?!)

But the idea that relationships are important to the success of the schoolhouse spreads far beyond simple cliche.  In fact, Roland Barth—founder of the Harvard University Principal’s Center—has long believed that the success or failure of schools is largely dependent on the nature of the connections and interactions between colleagues.

Consider the following Barth-ism, taken from a 2006 Ed Leadership article titled Improving Relationships in the Schoolhouse:







(Image used in background: Verde Amarelo by Alex DeCarvalho)

Barth goes on to describe a range of different relationships that exist in the typical school—ranging from teachers who spend years next to one another without ever realizing that peers actually exist to the colleagues who “lob metaphorical hand grenades” at one another as they unprofessionally challenge practices in an adversarial manner.

Successful schools—according to Barth—are places where teachers have established relationships defined by shared observations, collective conversations about craft knowledge, a spirit of joint adventure and a willingness to embrace challenges together.

So what do you think?

Do you agree with Barth about the role that relationships between adults play in the success or failure of our schools?  Are your students more likely to succeed when the teachers on your hallway are working together productively?

Is it possible to for you to succeed without having positive relationships with colleagues?   Can EVERY teacher succeed without positive relationships?  Are relationships something that we can control and encourage—or are they an interpersonal skill that one either has or doesn’t?

Just how relevant are relationships to the overall well-being of our schools?

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