Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Connections are Essential for Student Learning

If you have time, watch the TedxTalk by Johann Hari, Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong. Johann has been researching and writing about the War on Drugs for a number of years. But during his research about drug addiction, he realized that all kinds of addiction, such as gaming, gambling, sex & pornography, internet, cell phones, and other kinds of issues had one common factor in the lives of those who were living the addiction. Each person struggling with addiction had or were experiencing a loss of connection. Many of those caught up with addiction replaced relationship for alcohol, or drugs, or gambling, etc. Johann states very clearly that what individuals struggling with addictions need most is connection to people who love them and surround them with hope. He says, “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection.” 

It has been my experience that relationship building is hard work. We are flawed, imperfect individuals trying to make something beautiful in our lives. No matter what we do with building relationships someone will mess up, make mistakes, say something they will regret along the way. But when we replace connection for something other than something living and breathing we get into trouble. Where’s the relationship in playing video games for six or seven hours a night? Or what about the youth who can’t live without their phone for five minutes? I’m worried about our next generation that would rather resort to texting or Snapchatting, than sitting down and actually talking face to face where you can engage all five senses. 

I say all this knowing full well that relationship building is a lot of work. It’s no different for us at the school. We have families, spouses, children, and friends in our lives, in which, we strive to maintain healthy relationships. So it is only natural that we extend that relationship building to our students. It’s been said that very little learning goes on where relationships have not been first established. All of us need to work on those relationships, first between staff members and then with our students. Sometimes we have to be reminded of that from time to time because we get so busy and our priorities get misaligned. We have a saying in our home, “family first.” That means we put relationship first over everything. We want our school to be the same way. We need to operate like one big family working through challenges and coming up with ways to work together in order for learning to happen. But it doesn't stop there, we need to have the relationship with parents at home too. We know we have some work to do to build stronger relationships with parents. Our hope is that this year will be a turning point that engages the home more and increasing student success.

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