“Real”ationships

Have you ever felt compelled to write or speak about something? The past week or so, I have had these blatantly, stand-outish moments… and all of these moments have had one thing in common… how important relationships are.

From listening to the podcast, Akimbo to the book, Reclaiming Our Calling to scrolling through Facebook and running across the article Students Learn from the People They Love from the NYTimes or being in the classroom and observing the direct effect of relationships.

It has been to be proven, that we as human beings need other humans; we need interaction.

The Types of Relationships

  • A Family Relationship
  • A Spouse Relationship
  • A Co-Worker Relationship
  • A Peer Relationship
  • A Mentor/Role Model Relationship
  • A Social Media Relationship

The types of relationships that we have can be overwhelming and draining. There are times when I just want to step away and not have relationships surrounding me. They bring about complications, hurt, disfunction… I know… darkness. However, why do humans long for relationships? The positives outweigh the negatives in the spectrum of the meaning of relationships.

What is a “Real”ationship?

It’s a relationship that is real, of course. What makes it real? The actual definition of real is not imitation or artificial; genuine. What makes a relationship genuine?

All participants in the relationship should be…

  • dedicated to making it a positive experience
  • longing to care for one another
  • willing to listen before speaking
  • understanding of your baggage
  • inspiring to you
  • respectful of you
Put a face to a name.

How Can we Create “Real”ationships?

Connect = “Real”ationships

I will never forget the time I was standing between a 5th grade student and the principal of a school and out came the words (from the administrators mouth)… “That stupid choice you made, makes you stupid.” I was in my student teaching placement and I stood in shock. I could see the hurt in the child’s eyes. I felt like I couldn’t do anything, but stand by the child’s side until the principal walked away. How dare he? How dare he speak to a student like that? I didn’t understand. Did the student make a poor choice? Yes, but it wasn’t a defining choice. I left that day wondering how the principal could save that relationship… Could he apologize? Could he have lunch with the student on a weekly basis? Could I do something? The next day, I walked in with a plan in mind. I walked over to the student and asked how his evening was… he said the typical response, “fine.” Pushing a little more, I asked him if I could play kickball outside with them (I knew that was one of his gifts.) That day was a defining moment for me; figuring out that I couldn’t save the relationship between the principal and that student, but I could help fill a void. “Thanks for playing with us, today. No teacher ever does that.”

Mrs. Berryman encouraging her students.

Caretake = “Real”ationships

Time. Intention. Personal. Effort. Empathy. One of the fondest memory I have from my classroom is not a planned activity, an amazing lesson, a read-aloud book, a field trip we took… it is sitting on the floor in a circle (which we called, The Camp Fire) and having a conversation. This circle was safe, judge-free, and caring. This circle was for the students to share their thoughts. We did this on a daily basis. I never knew what the topic was going to be or how the conversation would go, but I did know that the students would genuinely talk to one another and open up about real-life situations. This time built lessons that cannot be taught in a book or on the internet. On the days where we would struggle to keep a conversation flowing, we would play games or sing. The camp fire became iconic in our classroom as we nurtured relationships.

Working with a student who wasn’t chosen to be in a group.

Be Present = “Real”ationships

Doing is greater than saying or action speaks louder than words. We have all heard these phrases to live by. When I ponder the word present I am left with a feeling of GO… however, that isn’t always the right was to impact a relationship. Look beyond… what can you do to further a relationship? Be below the surface level. Be inspiring. Be true. These three characteristics allow us to push beyond to the next level. Standing at the classroom door every morning was one of my favs. I could tell a lot by the body language, tone of a student’s voice to how the day was going to go. I was able to notice change in behavior as well. I would always follow-up with a conversation or eating breakfast with them. My read-aloud that day may have altered to connect. I made an effort to be available. Present is not always planned… sometimes it goes rogue. We have to be willing to take these chances and change as we all are bombarded with distractions. So, put the phone down, and listen.

Mrs. Christerson showing her own art to inspire one of her students.

The crazy thing is NONE of this is written in Core Content or on the state test… But if these are not present in your classroom, you can be the most esteemed teacher and your students will not learn anything. I have to ask this rhetorical question, “Can you imagine a curriculum where relationships are at the core?”

We, as educators, need to work on making our relationships with our students “real”ationships.

Think about a robot. Would you want a robot for a teacher?

…Emotions tell you what to pay attention to, care about and remember. It’s hard to work through difficulty if your emotions aren’t engaged. Information is plentiful, but motivation is scarce.

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