The Importance of Relationships

As we continue to dig deeper into fostering a feedback-rich system, we have begun to discuss the role of relationships in the process of being able to become vulnerable to giving and receiving meaningful feedback. If we expect to change the role of feedback loops in classrooms, we must first examine trust and opennness and willingness to put oneself in uncomfortable situations in educational settings.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

The very wise Theodore Roosevelt first said this, and I’ve heard many people repeat it over the years, especially in education circles. We repeat this often, but I wonder how many of us have really stopped to think how true the statement really is. If I examine this statement from my role as a student, I can say that I had so many teachers that showed me they cared over the years.

Caring in the classroom

I had one teacher in high school who offered different kinds of patterned band-aids in his classroom. They were accessible to all students, and if we were having a bad day, and we wanted him to know about it, we put that band-aid over our heart as a sign that we needed a little more caring that day. He didn’t always ask questions, but in his tone, we knew he took notice. Even if I wasn’t willing to talk in class, just knowing he acknowledged my heart helped me feel supported in class.

Caring beyond the classroom

There was another teacher who came to my wedding, years after I was in her 7th grade Social Studies class. Throughout the years in between, she kept contact with my parents, always asking how I was doing, ensuring she kept inserting words of wisdom into my life. She was also sure to send a High School and College graduation card, showing me that she was consatantly cheering me on.

Caring for first year educators

Then there was my principal when I was a first year teacher. She found opportunities to handwrite notes and put them in my mailbox when she saw me step outside of my comfort zone to try something new as a beginning educator. This small act showed me that she really saw my efforts, and encouraged me to keep trying new things.

Students need to know we care. In today’s society, there are so many forces at work in our classrooms. Students come to school without full bellies, without nurturing at home, without friends, without foundational skills. No situation is ever black and white, and why some students form strong relationships with teachers and why others don’t is not a simple answer. There is no formula for forming strong relationships in the classroom to ensure that all students will learn, but there are words of wisdom from other educators from which we can glean insight.

Reaching out…

  • Do relationships really matter in the classroom?
  • What are some ways you’ve promoted strong relationships in your classroom?
  • What are some ways someone has built a strong relationship with you where you were able to learn something new?
  • Do you believe the current classroom environment is a space where teachers and students can become vulnerable to give and receive authentic and meaningful feedback?
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