There are times where, as an educator, I get discouraged at the outlook of the educational landscape in my community, my state, and our nation. The work I do requires long days with very few days off, and I almost never take vacations. Naturally, not every day is a win, and I have moments where I question whether or not anything I am doing matters when it often takes years to see the fruit of my labor.
With this new administration, that seems grossly out of touch with reality; many things make me feel uneasy and as such, my days feel long, and the most menial tasks seem arduous. Further, the many challenges looming over education worry me and searching for solutions to the harsh realities of the community I live and serve in keep me up at night.
Often, I am asked where I go for inspiration or what drives me. The work I do and the people I am fortunate to be able to serve to inspire me. But so, too, do other educators whom I aspire to measure up to. One such source of inspiration is a Ted Talk done by Dr. Rita Pierson.
This Ted Talk reminds me of the part of my job that I enjoy most; interacting with people, especially students -this was also my favorite part of being at school as a student. Each time I watch it I recall my favorite teachers or staff members and I do my best to emulate their best quality, building relationships.
The power of relationships.
In addition to the many great things educators do for young people and their communities, one of the most overlooked is their ability to forge connections and build relationships. In fact, the best teachers recognize that building relationships are essential to the success of their students. James Comer said, “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” Educators leave a legacy of relationships that can never be erased; these relationships are as transferable as the content taught in classrooms.
Those relationships should foster environments where progress is celebrated, where kids are not afraid to take risks, and where every kid has a champion. Relationships make work feel more like a calling than a job; this is also true for educators who focus on building relationships with their students to facilitate their learning. Teaching should bring joy; such joy lies in the relational exchanges between student and teachers while learning is flowing both ways. When educators demonstratively enjoy teaching, their students will enjoy learning from them. A student with strong relationships with caring adults is a well-rounded individual for whom nothing is impossible.
Strong relationships are at the core of having a “village” that supports kids. Schools should be catalysts for relationships, not just between student and teacher. But between educators and parents, teachers and administrators, teacher to teacher as well as between and the community at large. We can do nothing to help our young people until we realize how education is about uplifting people, no matter what their age or role within education. So, as we endeavor to respond to the ever-changing educational landscape, we cannot neglect to place emphasis on the power and necessity of human connection.
“If I don’t have a meaningful relationship with you it will difficult for me to trust you; if it’s difficult for me to trust you then it will be difficult for me to learn from you.”
-Gary Hardie, Jr.