professornana (professornana) wrote,

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R is for relationships

What's missing from education policy debate? The headline for Valerie Strauss' column last month was a question that cuts right to the heart of the matter. Guest columnist, Jack Schneider, gets right to the point here: "But what policy elites don’t talk about—what they may not even know about, having themselves so little collective teaching experience—is how much relationships matter in our nation’s classrooms. Yes it matters that history teachers know history and chemistry teachers know chemistry. But it also matters that history teachers know their students, and that chemistry teachers know how to spot a kid in need. It matters that teachers have strong academic backgrounds. But it also matters that they can relate to young people—that they see them, hear them, and care for them."

I have been reading quite a bit lately about conditions for learning (Cambourne) at the same time I am reading some of the conceptual frameworks for CCSS from PARRC. I am struck by the disconnect. I see year long lesson plans sometimes involving literature that is so evocative but the plans themselves are sterile, devoid of the human element. Instead of focusing on the character in crisis, they focus on the bits and pieces of plot, theme, symbolism. Dissection to be sure. All of this reading colaesced last night when College Girl used Face Time to talk to BH and me. She remarked how one of her university professors had VALIDATED her recently, and how good that made her feel about the course, the teacher, and herself. Anyone who knows College Girl can tell you that she does not need to be validated. She is a pretty independent kid, self-assured and vocal (hmm, I wonder where she gets that?). But this teacher had listened to her and discussed with her and considered her opinion as valid.

Validation, acceptance, reassurance: these are all elements of a good teacher. They are also elements that cannot be measured in some sort of standardized VAM approach. Yet, ask someone about a memorable teacher (good memory) and chances are these elements are present. Did they know their subject matter? I am willing to bet they did. But there was something else besides rigor, something besides competence, something profoundly human.

Let me end today with a quote posted out by Claudia Swisher: "One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child." Carl Jung

Let us be the ones who offer the warmth, the validation, kids need to grow and develop.
Tags: humanity, relationships
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