“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”
Both schools and classrooms are tricky places to run. At any given moment, a teacher or principal may be dealing with fights, angry parents, demands of central office reporting, personal lives and all other issues that leak into the environment after a weekend. That’s all before 9:00 in the morning on a Monday. There’s a lot to manage.
Having been in schools as a teacher and a school principal for over 25 years, I understand how demanding the jobs can be. The fact that my wife is now a school principal keeps reminding me of the craziness of schools now that I am sitting at a different level. Here’s the thing that rings true for me though, no matter how crazy things get, if you’ve built your classroom or school on rock, you’ll weather the storm.
So, what’s the rock? Relationships. No matter what research I turn to in looking at building strong educational institutions, relationships come out as the single most important determiner of success in schools. Providing a safe, kind environment for staff, students and parents where people are valued, creates schools where learning flourishes. Yes, strong pedagogical approaches to learning can fuel greater growth. Yes, technology can accelerate that learning at times. Certainly demographics of school population affect learning outcomes. I understand all of this. The thing is though, if you have not built your learning community on the rock of trust, kindness and safety, a bad storm can pull down the best lesson plans in the world. A good gale can get sand in the keyboards of increased technological access and mess things up royally. If you have great relationships in your school, you can weather these times and keep driving ahead in supporting the great minds of tomorrow.
So, how do we go about ensuring that relationship is of fundamental importance in our schools? We live it. We greet people as they enter our classrooms or schools. We listen authentically to people who are struggling, seeking first to understand rather than defend. We take time to laugh and break bread at lunch. The little things that we do that make our jobs more enjoyable, are actually the bedrock we need to build on.
The irony of it is when we get busy with the actual running of our classrooms and schools, what do we drop first? We no longer have time to greet the kids at the door. We no longer have time to sit and eat with our friends. We no longer have a quick laugh in the hallway, we are too busy rushing. The thing that builds the strong foundation of the school gets dropped first. If you’ve built a strong foundation, we can get through the busy times. If we rush too much and forget to tend to the foundation, it starts to break up. We run the risk of getting lost in the tempest.
So, I suggest to you in the crazy season of Christmas concerts and term endings, laugh with friends in the staff room, greet the kids at the door, chuckle at their bad jokes. In doing so, you are building the foundation for their ease and future success.
Keep on Learning!