#DigiLitSunday: Relationships

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Check out Margaret Simon’s blog “Reflection on the Teche” for additional #DigiLitSunday posts here!

A favorite quote of mine is this:

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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!

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Do we REALLY want students to be critical thinkers?  

Then how are we encouraging “critical thinking” every day in our classrooms?  

How are we REALLY encouraging independent thinkers and workers?

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10 responses

  1. Amen, sister! My alumni remember the community that was our classroom long after they forget the nitty gritty lessons we worked on.

    1. Tara,
      I was thinking about the picture you had last week of students coming back to visit. Relationships are critical but there also has to be some WORK! ❤

      1. Oh, there is work, a lot of it. It’s very rigorous in our classroom.

  2. Critical thinking looks like a good topic for next week. I was talking to a teacher this week who was observing the relationship we have with our gifted students. She envied this. With 60 students a day, she doesn’t have the time to cultivate relationships with all her students. I get that. I am lucky to have my students over a period of years, so trust, community, and relationships are strong. Thanks for joining the conversation this week.

    1. Margaret,
      I think teachers who “loop” with their students have also appreciated having students for multiple years. Now after years in my present position, I really value that community, trust and the relationships that have been built. It just makes it “easier” to work together when we don’t have to “re-negotiate” our group every year. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t changes, but the changes are based on real needs and data.

  3. You bring up so many delicate questions. Do we really want critically thinking students? Students who are independent thinkers? Creating a community that understands how to do this without strife with trust is essential and extremely challenging. But, oh my, we must. Our future depends on it. must.

    1. Julieanne,
      I think we must as well – now more than ever. And it really cannot be about what I want others to think anymore. Students have to hone their own thinking skills. They have to be empowered! ❤

  4. Trust is the critical factor in classroom communities. Without it, students feel uncomfortable to move out of their comfort zone and some are reluctant to speak out. When I was growing up not much forethought was given to creating cultures of trust. The teacher was the leader and directed the learning. The students who loved learning flourished and those who did not fell by the wayside. Today, the growth mindset has sparked conversations on how to believe in each student’s uniqueness, provide choice, and support all voices to rise. Building relationships in these communities is key.

  5. […] Last week as I was reading DigiLitSunday posts, I found these questions on Fran McVeigh’s post. […]

  6. […] worth of thinking about this topic after Margaret Simon proposed it last week in a response to my blog here. But this quote really caused me to pause yesterday. “Critical thinking” is a buzz […]

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