Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Relationships over Testing?

In this era of high stakes testing, data aggregation, and maximizing instructional time, teachers may feel the need to prioritize content over relationships.  The prevailing notion may posit that there is not time to 'waste' on the fluffy stuff like relationship building.  It follows that the teacher may feel the need to devote all the time and energy available to making sure every minute of class time is focused on preparing students to succeed on the test.

May I offer up the notion that by taking the time to create a positive classroom culture, built on relationships that allow for empathy and support of each other, can lead to greater gains in learning?

Let's play this out a little bit further.  If you spend time at the beginning of the year, and build time into the day consistently throughout the year, on building those relationships, the payoff at the end of the year will be there.  Whether it is results on the test, as some are focused on, or on taking students to new levels of achievement and developing lifelong learners willing to take risks, as I would focus on; the benefits to students from participating in and developing a positive classroom culture will undeniably lead to your desired outcome.

When students feel safe and secure in their classroom, their inhibitions can dissipate, and they are comfortable in taking risks in their learning.  This risk-taking will take them beyond their comfort zones, to where the real growth can begin.  While the results may not immediately present themselves, over time the effect of these feelings on the students have the potential to be immeasurable.

Students will feel safe enough that they can be honest when you ask for understanding.  Instead of nodding and faking like they follow you, students in these classrooms are comfortable admitting that they do not understand what you are saying.  They will freely ask for more evidence, more examples, or for you to explain it again.  And, that is where you will see benefits of spending time creating the safe and secure learning environment for your students.

What do you think?  Do you feel there is a connection between a positive classroom culture and increased student growth?

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