Skip to main content

Content vs. Relationship: Part 1

I'll admit it. I sometimes fall into the content trap. You know the one... that paralyzing feeling that there are not enough minutes in the day to possibly teach all of the content you've been tasked with teaching, much less teach it effectively. You begin to panic. You notice your energy level turns up a notch- and not the good kind of energy level, either. That erratic, no-one-ask-any-questions-or-we'll-never-finish kind of freaky nervous energy. My son calls this "the dark side." I can always tell when I'm dipping my toes in the dark side because my speech begins to speed up, and I realize I'm talking WAY more than my students are. There's no discussion among them. There are no questions from them. There is no processing of information... for there can't be; I'm speaking like an auctioneer on opening day. Sometimes the content we teach (or the amount of content we must teach) gets the better of us.

Don't get me wrong- content is immeasurably important. Our student expectations and objectives (at least, that's what we call them in Texas) drive our instruction. BUT when we focus too much on content we begin to slowly lose sight of something else- the students. More exactly- our relationship with our students.

I know relationships are key. I believe it. I preach it. I do my very best to cultivate them; and yet... and yet- sometimes the content becomes the focus. This is almost always driven by fear. Fear that I'm not teaching every possible piece of information they'll need. Fear they'll show up in 6th grade unprepared. Fear that some skills needed from previous grades aren't as solid for some students as they need to be. Worried about reading fluency and ways to foster comprehension that are engaging and memorable. Need I go on? I'm sure by now you're making your own list of worries and fears that seem to greet us on a regular basis. So- even though I KNOW relationships are key- sometimes I shoot myself in the foot (great example of figurative language, by the way!) by not keeping relationships the focus. 

That being said, this past week I learned first-hand why relationships are key, why they matter most, and how when we focus on our kids- the return is better than awesome data; better than passing standards; better than any award we might ever win. When we focus on our relationships- we change lives. We make impressions that last well beyond the school year in our classrooms. And.. let's be honest... isn't that why we got into this gig called teaching to begin with...??? When we keep our relationships with our kids the focal point- we change lives; in more ways than we will probably ever know.

Part 2 will be published tomorrow.


Popular posts from this blog

Change and the Top 5 Things I Learned This Year

.... and there is was. I loved my classroom. I loved my kids. I loved those things and they were great... But I wanted something even more than that. I wanted to be able to focus on reading with small groups of students at a time in order to understand their individual needs; to try to get a glimpse into why they struggled year after year, to be a source of encouragement, and ultimately to help them be a little better at reading and comprehending than before they'd ever met me. So... to do this- to go after what I wanted but had never had, I had to do some things I had never done. I had to leave my intimately cozy school where I truly considered each person there a part of an extended family unit. I had to load up 8 years worth of materials and teacher junk and haul it to a new school; and not just any school... to a MIDDLE school! The horror! I had always sworn I would never... COULD never teach in a junior high/middle school setting, and here I was scrambling over boxes and giv…

True Confessions of Your Teacher


If you were any animal, what would it be? 

While I would love to say a cheetah for its stealthy ability to run and its sleek body movement in the wild, the fact that I am a wood duck proved more accurately after a recent field trip to a Botanical Garden and boat ride on the bayou.
While I've gone with classes in the past on this same field trip, ridden this same boat through the bayou, and heard about the wood duck nesting boxes erected along the side of the bayou- I guess I had never really given much thought to the special nature of the baby wood duck and the mother duck who calls her babies to literally fall out of the wooden boxes since they are unable to fly.
I think the mother wood duck must feel like a teacher most days of her motherly life in her little nesting box. Why?
Because as a teacher I worry and fret about what I'm doing in the classroom to help my students be successful. Sometimes as a teacher you feel like your kids have automatic hearing they can turn o…

Making Appointments- a collaboration strategy

Autonomy and collaboration are two buzz words you hear often right now in the realms of education chatter. And for those days when collaboration means within our own classroom, it seems like this is the day autonomy needs to be focused on the most. I can take the same two students and match them up to work as partners, who would have normally joined up anyway- but there is something about the teacher doing the matching that often times sets things on a bad foot right away. I noticed this when school first started. I would watch the groups and partners gather in clusters when I simply said for them to partner up- versus watching their reactions when I actually called them out, putting them in very similar groupings. There is something to be said for students feeling like they have a say in who they work with. I guess we are no different as adults.

I saw a strategy at a workshop last year called "Making Appointments" that I envisioned as a complete train wreck, but one day last…