Relationships matter

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships. Maybe it’s because after raising 11 children, we’re finally empty-nesting.

Maybe it’s because so many of my former students have been contacting me lately just to let me know how they are doing and how much they appreciate what I did for them. Although they remember much of what I taught them (and delight in showing me how much of it they actually remember), their constant refrain is that the remember how I treated them, how I encouraged them, how I challenged them.

In short, they remembered the relationship.

Relationships are an important part of making schools work successfully. Which is why I regret that we pay so little attention to it when we’re talking about real education reform. So, I was particularly glad to see this report over at Public School Insights:

Relationships, Not Replacements, Help Turn Around an Urban High School | LFA: Join The Conversation – Public School Insights.

We know that relationships make a difference in the lives of young people (they’ve told us so themselves). One could argue that keeping staff in place is intuitive, allowing students some continuity in a time of change. But aside from that, education research doesn’t support the replacement of staff in school improvement efforts.

A struggling school is not like a broken car or machine; it doesn’t just need a part or two replaced. Sometimes the idea of replacing administrators or teachers in a poor-performing school is put forward as almost a quick fix. What should give us pause on this strategy is the number of schools “turn[ed]around” in such a way that too soon return to the same situation, or worse.

As the role of professional learning committees (PLCs) and other forms of collaboration among all the stakeholders in a school are more and more recognized as keys to student success, maybe we should all think more about the relationships that are at the heart of teaching and learning.

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