From every possible angle and perspective in the field of education the development of meaningful and purposeful relationships with other people is of utmost importance. While the development of many different relationships in schools are essential, like those with colleagues and parents, we know that the primary focus needs to be on the students entrusted to our care. Students rely on being able to connect with and develop trusting relationships with those who care for them, whether a teacher, administrator or support staff. Dr. Jody Carrington, author of Kids These Days, tells us that “schools and educators are the most significant connection point to most every child on this continent.”
As educators we recognize that strong genuine relationships are the starting points for all learning. Before we can begin to worry about teaching lessons, delivering content, and facilitating learning, students need to feel that they are welcomed, cared for, and as though they truly belong. I’m fairly confident that each of us can remember caring adults in our past who embraced, supported, and encouraged us to develop to our greatest potential. Our accomplishments in life can very likely be attributed to these relationships.
Though we are all well aware that our children socialize and connect differently now, I think we are also very aware of how important it is for them to continue to develop close, real-life relationships. The isolation that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic has only made this truth more evident. Perhaps more than anyone, our youth are struggling with the restrictions of not being able to gather as larger groups of friends. They may rely heavily on technology to link with each other through various social media, but they are not able to connect in-person which, in many ways, is devastating to them. Connectedness and secure reliable relationships are critical to their mental well-being.
While we navigate through this temporary and difficult time of not being in the typical routine of our in-school classroom environment, we must remain mindful of the importance of our relationships and interconnectedness with students. Matthew Kelly from Dynamic Catholic tells us, “It is those things that are unchanging that allow us to make sense of change. So, at a time when change has never been more constant or intense, what is unchanging is more valuable than ever.” Although the pandemic has changed the way we do many things, let us continue to develop and foster the most fundamental of all human needs – the never-changing need to develop and sustain positive relationships.