Check out Margaret Simon’s blog “Reflection on the Teche” for additional #DigiLitSunday posts here!
A favorite quote of mine is this:
Relationships are critical for teachers and students. Relationships are critical for increased learning. Relationships are critical for grounding students in a community of learners working together.
But are relationships enough? Are they the end goal?
Learning classrooms with teachers and students working in tandem to curate, innovate, and create require a great deal of trust and autonomy. That trust and autonomy is not created in a vacuum. It is also not created without a great deal of hard work. The relationships are important, yes; but they are not the end point.
Learning that beats the odds and exceeds the possibilities requires a community of committed learners, choice, and trust. A teacher will be the director or facilitator of the learners and the community, but should not always be “at the helm” directing every single minute.
How important is community?
Communities are important because they allow people to bond together through common interactions, experiences, and work to meet a common goal. A community can be physically together in a classroom or even together on a Twitter or Voxer chat. The goal of a community is to bring people together to achieve that common goal. Valued relationships keep communities together. Perhaps some communities outlive their usefulness but the value of shared experiences helps them deeply understand each other. That community can also come from books. Books that show “me”. Books that show “people like me”. Books that show people “who are NOT like me”. Books that help me understand people “who are NOT like me”.
How important is choice?
Name the last three things that were JOYOUS for you? Were they required? Did they include elements of choice? You can read about the benefits of “Choice” from many of the #BowTieBoys blog posts referenced in Jason Augustowski’s blog. Jason writes about the fact that education is one of the few fields of work where the customers are NOT routinely consulted about and given input into their work. Why not? Why are students assigned mindless task after task instead of being given respectful choices about how to share their learning? Where can choice be included? Providing choices to the students where only two “pieces” are read by everyone in the class. The rest of the books, stories, articles, songs, or videos are student-selected from a list curated TOGETHER in the classroom community.
How important is trust?
Trust is a two way street that is so dependent on relationships. It may well be that I will trust you solely on the basis of our relationship. However, in times of stress or confusion that relationship may falter if respect for the individual or his/her beliefs becomes an issue. Will the trust hold? In the presence of community and choice, trust will be maintained. In the absence of trust the community will slowly wither away. Without choice the trust vine will begin to shrivel up as well. How is trust maintained? Within a community the possibilities of positive interactions and sincere communication allow trust to flourish and doubt to die off. Trust that students will do the work that they need to in order to provide evidence of their learning. Trust that students will build upon choice learning within their community to extend trust to others outside their own circles.
Relationships between teachers and students are critical for learning environments but relationships alone cannot be expected to maintain sole responsibility for the benefits that will come from a well-developed culture of community, choice, and trust. Teachers benefit. Students benefit. The research shows that relationships are critical. Please provide time to nourish learning by building strong communities with choice and trust!