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 and unfavorable learning conditions. In truth, this gap can only be bridged through the development of healthy relationship skills.
Education Transformations teaches Dr. Carl R. Rogers’ proven Person Centered Approach (PCA)** as a way of communicating and relating with others such that all parties feel heard, respected and valued. When a teacher uses PCA as a primary communication approach in the classroom, students will feel safer to participate and experiment with ideas and creative endeavors.
PCA is also the way to bridge the above mentioned relational gap that shows up when the unresolved familial baggage reveals itself in challenging moments. Some typical examples of challenges faced by teachers include: addressing a misbehaving student who is dealing with the trauma of their own adverse childhood experiences; meeting with a parent who is upset and blaming the teacher or principal; and dealing with judgments and criticisms from colleagues. In our workshops and programs, we help participants become aware of, and make significant shifts in, the perceptions and assumptions that are not serving them well. Participants are able to replace their unsuccessful reactions with alternatives that diffuse and transform volatile, disruptive, and upsetting conflicts. They learn how to use their new skills of understanding for others, responsible self-awareness, and unconditional positive regard to transform conflicts into satisfying outcomes for all involved.
HOW OUR WORK SUPPORTS CURRENT EDUCATIONAL REFORMS
Change imposed upon us is usually hard to accept, let alone to embrace. The new Common Core standards, as well as Restorative Justice practices, are huge new changes in current educational policies. Teachers are expected to learn and implement these new policies. However, the only way these programs will truly be successful is if teachers are committed to them.
Our workshops help teachers to address the obstacles that are getting in their way of embracing and implementing major changes.
Teachers will also need to work in teams more than ever, to understand what is expected of them to implement the Common Core program, and to support each other through substantial and significant cultural shifts, like Restorative Justice practices and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS).
PCA helps teachers develop the necessary communication skills for these team efforts to be successful.
Additionally, part of the Common Core Standards is expecting students to struggle with and find their own answers. Teachers need to develop patience and comfort with ambiguity, in order to trust in the process of discovery, as their students work through these challenges.
PCA fosters an environment of openness, empathy and respect, which makes it safe for student discovery to unfold and thrive.
Creating healthy school relationships produces effective learning partnerships among students, parents, teachers, and administrators, resulting in a kinder learning community that is committed to the success of all the participants.
Our work at Education Transformations is focused on helping educators learn the extraordinary skills needed for building successful relationships in the school setting.