Many of us grew up with our teachers having somewhat of a distant aura. I know in my school years I had very few relationships with my teachers because many of them appeared to be unapproachable. In fact I think most teachers were not allowed to get “too close” to their students. However the teachers I remember the most as my best teachers were those who were willing to be a bit more vulnerable and open with their students.
At Lakeside everything we do with our students is dependent on the quality of our relationships with them. Most of them have had many breaches of trust in their lives and need a predictable and caring environment so that they can restore that trust. That is built on the quality of relationships that our staff creates with students that is unlike most of the relationships they have had in the past.
Theresa Pfister, a teacher, recently wrote an article on the topic of teaching through relationships. Here is a quote from the article:
Research has firmly established that positive teacher-student relationships—those defined by respect, support, and care—contribute to positive short- and long-term outcomes for students. One study found that at-risk students who had more positive relationships with teachers also had more positive outcomes in social, behavioral, engagement, and academic realms. Other research showed that positive relationships in kindergarten supported behavioral and academic performance eight years later.
Too often I fear we educators are expected to put aside our humanity and the humanity of our students to make our classroom look a certain way, teach the lesson as written, and achieve the test scores. All of us—and this includes our students—are told to hide our vulnerabilities, our eccentricities, our preferences, and even our strengths unless they fit into a narrow vision of teaching and learning. Teacher as knowledge holders, students as passive receivers.
Ms. Pfister brings some reality to how she builds relationships with her students in this article.
Teachers deserve a great deal of respect and admiration from their students. However it is also important that students have strong relational integrity with their teachers so that they can entrust their learning and some parts of their lives to those teachers. Like any relationship, it is an earned trust that allows strong connections that makes learning safe and inspirational. I think all of us who teach want to be that teacher that students remember as authentic, effective and caring. That takes a strong and resonant relationship.