"We carry with us habits of thought and taste fostered in some nearly forgotten classroom by a certain teacher."
- Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education, p. 24
I have written on occasion in the past, including last week, about the importance of relationships in the classroom. After hearing it mentioned a few times on the Teachers Talking Teaching podcast, I have dived into listening to the EduChange podcast. Each episode has been an interview with someone involved in the education space in some way, usually as an educator, talking about what they have changed in their context and the impact that it has had. There have been some striking consistencies across the episodes that I have listened to thus far.
Initially, each guest is asked to outline a brief synopsis of their life in education and how they have ended up where they are, and at the end are asked to share a takeaway message with the listeners. In between is the really interesting conversation.Strikingly, relationships have been coming up a lot in the episodes that I have listened to. I do not know if that is a specific focus or if it is just how the interviews have played out, however, so far relationships with students has been a strong component of the change being affected in the interviews with Shane Hancock, Brett Wood, Peter Hutton, Matt Noffs, and Ashanti Branch.
The five educators whom I have listened to thus far are from very disparate ares, the UK, North America, and various parts of Australia. But for all of them, relationships with students came through. One of the educators made a remark that for some students, they are confused when a teacher shows them care outside of where a teacher should care because they are not used to being cared for.
“If you care more about the subject you are teaching than the subjects WHO you are teaching, there will probably be a disconnect.”
- Ashanti Branch
We do not necessarily know what is going on at home, students, just as much a teachers, wear masks to hide things from those around them. Ashanti Branch is working in his community, through the Ever Forward Club, to break down those masks, to help students see that students' challenges are not there's alone, but are being borne by others as well.
Brett Wood, co-founder of Music Industry College, has used embedded relationships into the school. The size of the school has deliberately been kept small so that all staff know all students. The power behind that is incredible. To be able to know the names of all the students in a school has the power to change your relationship with them immensely, and their relationship with you, and with their learning.
There are a range of available resources to help you learn how to build and strengthen the relationships with your students, from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) (here), to the National Education Association (NEA - North America) (here), and the Victorian Education Department (here), and the American Psychological Association (APA) (here).
Hattie's work in Visible Learning indicated that student-teacher relationships had an effect size of 0.72 on learning outcomes in both his 2009 and 2011 reports, which is quite a significant impact. Relationships play such an important role in the classroom.
What are you going to do to help strengthen yours?