The teaching assignment in my vice-principal role has changed slightly from last year. This year I am part of the Learner Support Teacher Team. I work with students in Grade 1, 2, and 4.
My first inkling was to get all the sight words, guided reading books, and other materials ready to bombard these learners struggling with the basics. I’ve been a Learner Support Teacher in the past and that’s what I’ve done – started right from day one of LST support – giving them all sorts of meaningful learning opportunities. Or what I thought was meaningful learning opportunities.
Over the past year though of working in an inner city school, I’ve come to realize that things are different here. Our students first need certain conditions met before I can realistically expect them to maintain focus and try to move forward in their learning.
The most important thing I can do is develop a trusting relationship with each and every child. I need to get to know each child: what they like, what they don’t like, about their family, about their strengths, and their challenges. I need to know what makes each child happy. I need to know what makes each child excited. I need to know how to tap into their strengths. I need to know how they best learn and express their learning. But, most of all, they need to know I care. They need to know that I will always be there as their cheerleader, providing ongoing support and feedback.
How could I begin to think that these students would just come to my Learner Support room and start working, focusing, and improving their academic skills. These skills are difficult for them, and for some, this difficulty has been ongoing for years. I am asking these children to do things that have been traditionally challenging for them, right from day one. That’s unfair and setting us all up for failure.
This year, I decided to do something differently. I changed my priorities from “learning” to relationships. It takes time to build a relationship with students you may only see for 30 minutes each day. Once these relationships are built on a foundation of trust and care, I will then be able to ask more of the students. They will want to be good and try for me because of the relationship we have developed. I strongly believe that with out a relationship with my students, learning will be severely impeded.
If I was a classroom teacher, that is what I would do and how I would approach teaching my students. Why should my role as a Learner Support Teacher change my priorities as a teacher? In fact, developing strong trusting relationships with my students should be an even bigger priority with these students! What do you think? Do you agree?
What are your top priorities as a teacher?
10 thoughts on “It Always Comes Back to Relationships”
Tia, this is beautiful. It’s so simple, yet so often forgotten. We teach children. You have really captured the essence of teaching in an inner city school. The emotional needs must be met (as well as food/physical needs) before any learning can happen. As an adult, I know that I have to feel respected and valued for my contributions before I will jump in and participate. Kids just need to know that you care. My top priority is to be able to look a student in the eyes and have him/her meet my gaze and smile-that’s connection. Learning just follows.
Thanks for the comment, Diana,
Your top priority is right on target! Those connections (especially those unspoken ones) are so very important – in all aspects of our life. Yes, kids need to know you care. That’s the bottom line. Being a vice-principal of an inner-city school has really strengthened my understanding and commitment to our students and their families. Sometimes you forget just how important those connections are … then you work in an inner-city school where the needs are great and then you remember! I am so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work in such an amazing school, with such a great staff, students, and parent community!
Thank you for all you do, Diana! You really do make a huge difference in the lives of your students, their families, and everyone with whom you work (including me)!
building relationships based on caring and trust is my priority in past teaching and especially in my future teaching. Nice post. 🙂
I enjoyed the post and agree with you. I’ve started to notice a trend. The most successful and impact full teachers always operate at the place positive relationships and high expectations intersect.
Yes! The teachers who hold the most influence are those who value and build positive relationships but also those who have high expectations! You do need both! I think that goes the same for those in leadership positions, don’t you?
It was nice seeing you on Friday, Johnny!
Thanks Tia. Love the post. Reminds me of the Comer quote “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship”. Great connecting with you (albeit briefly) in Richmond.
Yes, it was nice connecting with you as well. Too bad we didn’t get to chat. Sorry I didn’t get back to you about your collaborating question. Things have been very busy and I just remembered your dm when I saw you in Richmond. Sorry.
I love that quote, Tom. Thanks for sharing!
Have taught many student teachers through the years, and when (invariably) asked what I think makes a great teacher, I always gave my top 3 attributes. Relationship, relationship, and relationship. And oh yes, throwing in “The Kindergarten Principle” for good measure (Keep it Fun). Thanks for the reminder Tia. Lest we forget.
Yes, relationships, relationships, relationships! So important for student teachers to have a mentor to make them realize the importance of these relationships early in their career. Good for you!
I agree with the “Kindergarten Principle” as well. I think that there should be a little (or a lot, really) of kindergarten in every single grade! We forget how important fun and real love of learning is for our students. Thanks for that, Gord!