Positive, trusting relationships are what matter most in the lives of our children. And our schools – along with our society – need to adjust accordingly.
It is no secret that, in great schools, students come first. When the focus of a school’s energy and resources is truly centered on the needs of children, the results are always positive. But for schools to be truly student-centered, emphasis on test scores and worksheets must give way to more authentic assessment, challenging curricula, and, ultimately, meaningful human relationships.
Gone are the days when a teacher can stand in front of a classroom and attempt to deposit knowledge into the waiting minds of students seated neatly in rows. Those dark days of education have been replaced by an era in which the best teachers embrace an approach to working with students that recognizes and capitalizes on what current brain research reveals so clearly – that learning styles and educational needs among humans vary widely.
At the same time, the electronic age has also changed the way humans communicate. The computer, the iPod, the cell phone/camera/day-planner, and the next electronic gadget that is sure to hit the virtual shelves later today, have altered the way people process and manage information. The barrage of electronic stimuli in our homes and communities has put many children on mind-numbing overload. As a result, I believe, human relationships in schools – and in society – are now more vital than ever.
I believe that meaningful, encouraging relationships at school are what make a real difference in a child’s education. Great teachers get to know their students. Great teachers – recognizing that how information is delivered is critical – focus as much energy and attention on understanding the unique learning needs of their students as they do on the specific content of their courses. In other words, great teachers build relationships. And students benefit. Schools, then, become learning communities where students are willing to engage – to take risks, seek help and support from adults, and, ultimately, develop trust. And when these connections and trust exist, students become available for learning. Our society, I believe, can learn and benefit from the lessons of these great teeachers.
We must challenge schools to develop institutional philosophies, mission statements, and academic programs that foster and support student-centered school cultures. This is crucial to the educational and developmental welfare of every child. I firmly believe that child-centered, student-focused learning communities – built on the strength of solid human relationships among students and teachers – are more likely to lead to schools where students enjoy genuine and lasting enthusiasm for learning.
From that, a society will no doubt emerge in which our children are more willing and able to connect with others, engage in meaningful discussion, and, ultimately, contribute in positive ways to our communities and our lives.