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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.

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