Do you ever stop to think about the order in which you teach curricular outcomes? Should learning outcomes be the main focus of our classrooms?
In my experiences, the unfolding curriculum is ultimately more successful through the development of trusting and enduring relationships.
Building and establishing strong relationships with students is the foundational structure of classrooms. I don’t think I’m wrong about this. It is what cultivates the learning environment, sets the stage for academic tasks, increases risk-taking and meets the varying needs of learners.
I consider myself lucky to have learned this lesson early on in my teaching career. I remember it clearly…it was my second year of teaching. The school year started with the administration team telling us to take September to build relationships. To have fun with students, play and engage in conversations. Get to know them. SAY WHAT?! They were giving us permission not to focus on learning or teach curricular concepts? That is perhaps how I saw it at first. Yet I soon realized the administration team knew exactly what they were doing. They were instilling in us a powerful and essential tool I have embraced as a teacher and have now passed on as an administrator myself.
Find out what makes students light up. What brings them joy and happiness? Discover what they are interested in even if you have the slightest clue what they are talking about. The more that we connect with our students, their families and our colleagues, the closer we get to establishing authentic interactions that flow over into our classrooms. Which ultimately will flow into meaningful learning. If we continually do these things in the presence of our students, even on the hardest of days, they will look for ways to do the same. There is no greater gift as an educator than to connect with a child. To truly know them on an individual basis. When I see the sparkle in their eye there is often a shift in the way future interactions occur. There is a realization that they have somebody in their corner. They start to see themselves through your eyes.
The moment a child knows that an adult authentically cares about them, the relationship can’t help but grow and blossom.
Before the relationship is built, I can make progress with that student. Of course I can — we all can. We can teach them how to read, write, add, subtract, etc. Yet once the connection becomes a living and breathing daily occurrence, we can support that student by giving them the gift of believing in their abilities.
The curriculum unfolds once students feel connected, supported and heard. Their walls start to come down and their self-awareness builds. All because YOU placed THEM before anything else.
What do you do to build relationships with your students?