Relationships Matter

Andrew - MANCHESTER, New Hampshire
Entered on July 11, 2008

The student’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

I believe in the power of relationships in education. The power of relationships between students and teachers. Relationships based on mutual respect and trust. This is not something one is taught in college. This has to be learned firsthand in the classroom.

My first year in teaching was hard. I imagine most first year teachers experience what I did- confusion, long days, scrambling to put together quality lessons. One night my principal told me to go home before I burned myself out. And then there were the kids, which is the reason we were all there anyway. That year they were many things- great, trying, funny, and sometimes just plain difficult. But there was a lesson to be learned that year. And the teacher’s name was not Mr. B, but Amy.

Amy was a foster kid, tough as nails. Her dad was no where to be found and her mom was in jail. Amy gave her teachers a hard time. Hers was a name that came up frequently at team meetings.

Amy was in my advisory that year. Sometimes my advisory would do team building activities or play games, but most days, while the other kids chatted amongst themselves, I would talk with Amy. We would talk about life, or math, or whatever was on her mind. I don’t remember much of what we said, but the important thing is that we talked. Over the weeks and months we built our relationship. And a funny thing happened- Amy stopped giving me a hard time. She worked hard in my class. I found that I could reason with her about school, behavior, and peer relationships.

Why did she do this? Did she suddenly decide school was the most important part of her life? Hardly. The truth is Amy knew that I cared about her. She trusted me. She respected me and I respected her. Spending the time to build that relationship with Amy was the most important thing I did during my first year in education. Amy taught me the most crucial lesson a teacher can learn.

With all the emphasis on testing these days, it may be easy to forget what education is really about, what really matters. Education is about kids. Education is about getting kids to want to learn, giving kids the tools to learn on their own. The tools to grow as a person. This starts with building relationships, one student at a time.