Throughout the history of education we’ve heard about the importance of the three R’s (even though only one of the words actually starts with an R!) as the foundation of good schooling. As the end of another school year is upon us and every student will be away from the halls of learning for an extended period of time, I think it’s a great time to focus on the one R that really drives the success of any school and helps every student reach their full potential – relationships.
As teachers sift through the evidence of their most successful moments of the completed school year (and make plans to have even more of those in the next school year), I am willing to predict that most of those moments were powered by great relationships established.
This past year has seen me work with educators in a myriad of locations with different contexts, strengths, and areas for growth. Each place is doing some great work with students. As we collectively created plans for each school’s next first step, we kept coming back to the most important R. It is the building of relationships with every student that propels them to higher levels of success. The model of the Significant 72 (first three days of school spent focused on relationship building) that began in SD 68 in Woodridge, IL provided strong evidence of the efficacy of this approach. Having every student knowing they have an adult champion in their school is powerful stuff. And here’s an added bonus – it also improved the relationships for the adults.
One of the things I’ve learned after 32 years as an educator is that the kids that challenge us the most, need us the most. They may not be able to articulate that need or may even give signals that indicate the opposite. It’s often a function of the layers of hurt or worse, which insulate them from pain but also make it challenging for the compassionate and caring educator to break through.
Our focus, as one school year is put in the record books and another looms large on that never-too-distant horizon, should be to have every student know that at least one adult in the building will be there for them. The success of our students depends on them feeling comfortable to take risks, possibly fail at those risks, while always knowing an adult will be there to support them.
As educators enjoy a well-deserved break and take the opportunity of a summer rest and recharge, it’s important to think of what else can be done to ensure that ALL students have the best school year of their lives next year. It all begins with that most important R – RELATIONSHIPS!