For decades, there has been one educational reform movement after another. Many of these movements even advocate similar best practices. Mostly, however, these reform movements fail. We think that is because there is one crucial piece that repeatedly gets left out of the formula. This missing piece is the significance of student-teacher relationships and their impact on learning, and what’s needed to improve those relationships. Adding in this key ingredient is what is necessary for our system to produce its desired educational result: all children receiving a quality education that prepares them well for college and/or career.
In classrooms, a significant percentage of learning is dependent upon the relationship teachers have with their students. People need relationships and connection; however, most people have difficulty with relationships, even finding them painful and stressful. As children we learn to relate to others initially through our parents and families. People often carry unresolved baggage from their familial relationships that affects their current relationships, both at work, as well as in their personal lives.
For teachers this can be highly problematic, given our understanding that much of the learning in class occurs through the student/teacher relationship. Even the best teachers are faced with some students who are difficult to reach – a good teacher can reach all of their students some of the time, and some of their students all of the time, but it is a rare teacher who can reach all of their students all of the time. And unfortunately, in their credentialing education, most teachers do not learn the necessary skills for building effective relationships with their students, parents and colleagues. Thus a gap remains between student and teacher, resulting in disconnection, alienation, class disruptions […]