Throughout the history of education we’ve heard about the importance of the three R’s (even though only one of the words actually starts with an R!) as the foundation of good schooling. As the last long weekend of summer break is upon us and every student will be in classes next week, I think it’s time to focus on the one R that really drives the success of any school and helps every student reach their full potential – relationships.
The past two weeks have seen me work with educators in Barrington IL, Listuguj QC, Richland Hills TX, Brussels WI, and Oglala SD (I’m guessing many of you have not been to two of these places) and each place is doing some great work with students. As we collectively created plans for each school’s next first step, we kept coming back to the most important R. It is the building of relationships with every student that propels them to higher levels of success. The model of the Significant 72 (first three days of school spent focused on relationship building) that began in SD 68 in Woodridge, IL provided strong evidence of the efficacy of this approach. Having every student knowing they have an adult champion in their school is powerful stuff. And here’s an added bonus – it also improved the relationships for the adults.
One of the things I’ve learned after 30 years as an educator is that the kids that challenge us the most, need us the most. They may not be able to articulate that need or may even give signals that indicate the opposite. It’s often a function of the layers of hurt or worse, which insulate them from pain but also make it challenging for the compassionate and caring educator to break through.
Our focus, as another school year gets underway, should be to have every student know that at least one adult in the building will be there for them. Welcome back!