I recently tweeted the following in response to a question put out to the Twitterverse by Dr. Justin Tarte, an educator who’s ideas and messages often resonate with me.
Shortly after, I received the following great questions from a Bachelor of Education student (and former childhood classmate):
Life question Sheila, is “relationship” really the biggest trend in education right now? I always just thought this was a given, but apparently not, by all the posts I’m seeing about it lately.
And then I have an even bigger question. We all know teachers that aren’t relational. Do they even know they aren’t? It essentially comes down to who you are, does it not? Isn’t that the part of teaching that can’t be taught in university?
My first thought in regards to these questions was less to do with the topic of relationships, and more to do with the fact that this was the second time in less than two weeks that it had been suggested to me that certain topics or expectations in education “should just be a given.”
My personal feeling is that, just like with our students, we shouldn’t assume anything, and that really, we should be teaching and discussing all important aspects of education, regardless of how obvious they may seem to us. Many of the lessons that we continually re-teach to our students seem obvious to us (and probably to them too), but by continuing to deliver these important messages, they learn the significance of these lessons and what our expectations are. Similarly, by continuing to share and discuss important topics in education (regardless of how obvious they may seem), teachers hear what is important. Repetition, drives the significance of the message home!
Moving on to the question, Are relationships really the biggest trend in education?
This particular question prompted me to take a closer look at my Twitter page. Although I try to keep an open mind to all topics in education in order to continue growing as an educator, I will admit that my tweets ARE heavy on the topic of relationships and human connection. It’s no secret to the people that know me well, that relationships are where I feel everything starts (in education AND in life).
So are relationships a trend in education? To me a trend is something that comes and goes. There are certain topics in education that “trending” or not, I don’t think will ever, or should ever go away. Reading and writing?! These skills will always be relevant and important, at least as far as I can see. Innovative education?! If we consider innovation to be always striving to do things in new and better ways, should innovative education ever go away? Obviously not! When we know better, we do better! Relationships?! Humans are creatures of attachment. We look for human connection and sameness with others, whether we realize it or not. We feel good when people like us and can relate to us. Is this changing?! Negative! So in short, if you ask me, relationships are not, and should not be a trend. The importance of building relationships with students and colleagues is here to stay, and continuing to talk about it just drives home the importance.
Next questions! Do teachers who are not relational realize this? Doesn’t it just come down to who you are? Can these skills even be taught in university?
I think it’s fair to say that teachers that are less relational probably don’t fully realize it, so yes I agree to a certain extent that it may just come down to who you are. But I also can’t help but think of what motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said.
“We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.”
If this is true, and these “less relational teachers” are surrounded by others that are continually putting a focus on connecting with their students, can’t they be inspired by and learn from these people?
Also, I think that there IS a lot to learn about the psychology of relationships and attachment in university (or by other means), that can help teachers to understand the importance of connecting with and how to connect with their students. This is even more true as we learn more about attachment and trauma, managing behaviour through relationships, and diversity and inclusion in education. Although I personally feel as though I have always worked hard to build connections with my students, I also know that I have learned a great deal about how to do this and the importance of doing so by studying the psychology of relationships, human connection, and attachment. My only wish is that I had gained this knowledge earlier in my career. And I strongly feel that we need to put a heavier focus on this as we train new teachers.
The “heart work” as I like to call it, needs to be every teacher’s, every educator’s, every leader’s first focus. It’s amazing how much the rest just falls into place once that foundation is established.
As I wrap up my long winded answer to these fair questions I was asked by this reflective B.Ed student, I leave you with a few (okay several) of my favourite tweets relating to relationships!
I would love to hear your feedback!
Are relationships in education just a trend?
Does it just come down to who you are?
Can these skills be taught?