Sitting at O’Hare waiting for the flight. As we said two days ago, I am sure it will take months to process the last few days. It was fun to make some new friends, see some old friends, and just enjoy the swirl.
On first reflection I am gratified to find that I am not alone in spending a lot of time worrying about the affective lives of the kids in my class. I heard lots of people talking about empathy, caring, passion and even love. These are words that aren’t always part of our vocabulary, but really should be.
Even in sessions that were more focused on technical specifics of teaching or practice, there was an awareness that at the core of everything we do is relationship, and if we don’t establish relationship with our students, we won’t be able to do all the crazy wonderful things we want to do. Nor will they get to where we hope they will go.
That question became foregrounded in our session this morning as we discussed what we (the whole group) were struggling with in our classrooms and in our professional practice. Relationship is at the core of everything educational. And I am not just talking about teacher/student. Think about the people you most enjoy working with. Think about the administrators in your building. Think about the district you work in, the community you come from (thanks Jeff Wilhelm for the idea of micro-, meso-, and macro- culture), that your students come from. We are always engaged in relationship in some form or another.
When I reflect on the relationships that seem to be working- in the classroom, in the institutional structure, in the community- it is always because those in the relationship are paying attention to cultivating that relationship.
In the K-12 classroom we have captives who are not necessarily old enough or mature enough to engage the type of conscientious cultivation of relationship that is required to keep our classroom communities functioning. That’s our job. In fact, I would say it is the most important part of our job. Without that functional relationship nothing much else of value happens. Yes, you can bludgeon students into performance, but I didn’t hear anyone this weekend arguing that simply forcing young people to engage in performative display was their vision of quality English education. In fact, I heard the opposite, over and over again.
So I’ll take some time to think and write about all the more specific cool stuff I heard this week. But I leave even more convinced that it is thinking about relationship is the thing I need to be working on right now.
Oh, and thanks Chicago, the pizza is AWESOME!