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Sunday, February 5, 2017

It All Comes Down To A Relationship

It all comes down to a relationship...

Try, if you can, to imagine the following without the ability to include relationships: Religion, politics, work, education, family, friends... it's scary isn't it? The removal of relationships could easily result in emptiness, pain, loneliness, anger, bitter assumptions and a lack of purpose.

Faith without relationship can often result in religious rules, regulations, judgement, and acts of works required for salvation.

Politics without relationships can often result in split views, an inability to come together, and an unwillingness to embrace love, and instead embrace hate or close-mindedness, no matter what party you find yourself in.

Friendship without relationship is no longer a friendship at all. Rather, two people, near in physical location, but distant in emotional connection and purpose.

But what about education? Where does relationship belong in the world of education? Teachers, Students, Families, and Community...the big four in our educational world.

School and Community: It's amazing how powerful change can be when a school and community come together. When a neighborhood, a district, a city come together in relationship in order to make a difference. My school has been blessed to partner with churches, a synagogue, businesses, and other schools all with one goal in mind...How can we support our students and teachers? How can we love on them both? How can we make a difference one life at a time? A school is a living entity, and in order to flourish fully, I truly believe ii needs community support and partnerships.

Teachers and Teachers: As I have written about before, it’s amazing how lonely being a teacher can be. It’s amazing how a person can feel extremely isolated as the only adult in a room filled with students. When your job is to educate, to love, to facilitate, to support, to fill instructional gaps and create an environment where curiosity reigns...yet are responsible for the safety, knowledge, and security of each student within the room...the job becomes one of immense responsibility, that is often held by the teacher, and the teacher alone. The list of things a teacher does each day is extensive to say the least, and I can’t imagine the burnout rate that would happen if teachers were required to face the challenge of teaching alone each and every day. The relationships teachers have with each other is vital to their success - both instructionally and emotionally. Relationships between teachers bring support, understanding, friendship, thought partners, and a better school community for each other, and for our students.

Teachers and Parents: The value of a supportive parent is priceless. The relationship between parents and teachers is an often overlooked or undervalued asset that can be the key ingredient to a student’s success. When teachers and parents work collaboratively together, and create a supportive relationship that looks much like a partnership, a student's instructional gains, behavior, and performance can increase at a much higher rate than in the classroom with the teacher alone. When a parent looks to support rather than seek to blame, interfere, or be overly critical, a successful and beneficial partnership can be formed, and one that can last for years to come.

Students and Students: The best teachers, the very best, are the ones capable of creating a classroom culture that inspires, forms, and develops successful and respectful student relationships with each other. A classroom culture built on the belief that together the class is a family, one built on empathy, integrity, and grace. A community of fellow learners, coming together in order to help each other be the best students they can a safe and creative environment. The relationships our students form in the classroom, and the skills they gain through collaborating each day, will help carry them through their learning career. Great teachers know this, and because of this, they focus on teaching and guiding students in the direction of building successful relationships with each other.

Teachers and Students:Think about the teacher, the counselor, the administrator that helped change your life. Imagine his or her face...Think about the life lessons he taught, the stories she told, and the impact he had. Maybe she is the reason you are in education today, maybe he is the reason you finally began to believe in yourself as a learner. Did she inspire you? Did he light a fire for learning that still exists today? Odds are, when you think about this person you don’t remember that time he taught you the Pythagorean theorem, or the capital of all 50 states. Odds are you don’t remember his or her face because of the content that was shared, but rather the relationship that was formed. It’s amazing what happens when an adult, driven by integrity and grace, decides to make a difference in a student's life. An educator has the ability to not only share content, but inspire, lead, cultivate, and establish not only a love of learning, but also a self-efficacy that can last a lifetime. It was the educators who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself I remember. The ones willing to ask how I was feeling, and not just what I was hearing. The ones willing to invest time into me, even when I made it difficult to do so…

You see, in our world, not just in education, it all comes down to a relationship…

Yet for educators you have to ask yourself these questions: Am I willing to invest in others when they may not invest in me? Am I willing to offer grace to all students whether they deserve it or not? Am I willing to put in the time and energy it takes to create valuable relationships for my students? Am I willing to model what integrity looks like? What a strong work ethic and passion for learning means?

Are you willing?

I hope so, because I would love for your face to be the one your students see in their mind’s eye when they are asked one day who made a difference in their lives. Content is valuable, but relationships are everything.