I recently have been observing some formal debates in an English classroom. Hearing students articulate their thoughts through debate is a rewarding experience. They never fail to impress! The kids were very engaged in the debate process despite some often daunting and advanced topics. However, it wasn’t always the content that was resulting in the engagement, but the kind of rapport the students and teachers have created between one another.
Then later in the day I was reading the latest issue of Edutopia about the question of whether teaching is an art or science. I was struck by the response that “teaching is an art; it involves emotions”. This statement really ‘hit home’ as our school tries to promote the importance of fostering trust and building relationships. Not just between students, but among staff, students, and parents. We often say that the school is not built of bricks and mortar, but one of interconnections between people. As an administrator, I work frequently with the at-risk group and see first hand how critical the emotional connections are in keeping at-risk youth attending school.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation found that nearly half of high school dropouts reported school to be uninteresting and that students were not motivated to work hard. What role do the relationships established between staff and students play in making school interesting and fostering work ethic? I don’t have any statistics but my “gut” and experience tell me its incredibly important and easily overlooked – particularly with challenging students. I often think about making content relevant and engaging in my courses. However, what about the role and importance of building relationships, or art?
If anyone has any systematic plans/programs they use with students or at-risk youth to help build relationships I’d love to hear your comments.