Is this time of uncertainty, there is an opportunity for us to understand our relationships with learners and their families more clearly. Let’s see how.
Building strong positive relationships will ensure students are better adjusted, have more confidence, and perform better academically.
Among many other aspects of development, cognitive equilibrium is a state of balance between individuals’ mental frameworks and their environment. The balance is achieved when our expectations, based on our prior knowledge, fit with new knowledge. Of course, we humans quite like this balance between our knowing and our being. The opposite – a sense of disequilibrium – can be quite uncomfortable. It can feel frustrating, and challenging. It can cause fear, anxiety, and even panic. It is, however, a fundamental part of the learning process and one in which we need to recognise both emotion and cognition.}
Nirmala Patro is Teacher and HOD, French department, DPS Nacharam. With an experience of teaching for the last 16 years, she is passionate about learning new languages and acquiring new skills. Being a parent, she strongly feels about parental involvement in education.
Our vision, understanding, clarity and agility is important now like never before. How do we make this happen in our new (for the time being) delivery of remote learning? It is a challenge of the hands, the head and the heart as we ask ourselves, “Do I have the skills to do this, the resources to work in new ways and the courage to inspire and lead change?”
Teaching is built on the strength of relationships
Learning is socially constructed, it develops from the connections we have with our learners, between our learners and with our colleagues. Teaching is a profession built on the strength of relationships, the power of learning growing from the connection between the teachers and the learners. The lack of face-to-face, daily connection is no doubt creating a sense of loss for both learners and teachers. For some of our learners, particularly those with additional support needs, this enforced change of routine with the removal of established connections will be incredibly difficult to understand and manage. It is also important to remember that this crisis is not a leveller, it is impacting the most vulnerable in our society in disproportionate ways.
Considering the feelings this sense of loss creates for each of us, reveals important reflections on the impact of our schools as communities and what it means to be a teacher. Our teacher professionalism is our foundation but within a challenging context of media and experts who, on one hand, seek our action to provide learning that maintains close to a school based experience as possible, and on the other, suggest that we are putting too much pressure on families.
Embracing and putting to work this professionalism, rooted in our professional values, turns the uncertainty we might want to flee from to challenges we can engage with. It recognises that solutions to our current challenges are within our partnerships and relationships and start with people. I am often struck by how we like to organise humans into discrete groups. Real life is much messier than that. Teachers are educators, some teachers are parents, all parents are educators and some parents are teachers. We are connected.
Right now learning is happening in a different place, in a different way and with different people. It requires a different approach and a new way of thinking. It also requires incredible creativity to consider how we engage all our learners but especially for those we are particularly worried about and who may be impacted long-term by this temporary change in how we learn. Perhaps it is allowing us to see and strengthen connections with learners and their families more effectively that our regular system supports.
Currently we are rightly prioritizing physical safety and mental well-being over academic learning. When we gather together once again, of course we will be anxious to address our learners’ cognitive and emotional needs. We will be acutely aware that each individuals’ experience in this time away from school has been very different. Teachers will be considering, “Okay, so how am I going to do this?”
This professional challenge needs to be led by our heart while we ‘hold the uncertainty’ for ourselves, and for others. The starting place is in the rebuilding of connections, the fostering of relationships and in demonstrating just how much we care.
Tips for teachers for better connections
Here are the four tips, in my view, might work for increasing teacher capacity around social, emotional, and academic needs of students the current K–12 landscape.
1. Make family outreach part of our practice: Now more than ever it is time to extend outreach beyond students to involve, inform, encourage, and support our learners’ families. With parents and caregivers stepping in as “co-teachers” in many cases to guide remote and hybrid learning, developing strong relationships with them makes it easier to understand what they need to best support their child at home. This will also help them view the teacher as an invested partner in their child’s success.
2. Rely on your tools: Responding to the needs of every student takes time and energy. Making things up on the fly isn’t efficient or sustainable, but by knowing and using the tools and strategies that work, teachers can sharpen their skills, establish consistent norms and expectations, and set them and their students up to succeed.
Right now learning is happening in a different place, in a different way and with different people. It requires a different approach and a new way of thinking. It also requires incredible creativity to consider how we engage all our learners but especially for those we are particularly worried about and who may be impacted long-term by this temporary change in how we learn.
3. Consider the new needs of students: Many students started this school year off differently—without meeting their
teacher or classmates in person. We will have to adapt our approach to creating a positive culture in classrooms to ensure that students feel a sense of connection regardless of the modality in which they learn. Incorporating a class slogan, monthly celebrations of students, or shared goals can be considered to help create the desired classroom culture.
4. Strengthen connections amongst students themselves: It can be tough to create a community where students feel comfortable engaging and sharing their ideas in a non-traditional environment.
We can look for opportunities to build trust amongst students by allowing them to share their ideas in small group settings, which can be less intimidating and can build their confidence in the whole group. This will help them form the necessary social bonds for effective learning. Building strong positive relationships will ensure students are better adjusted, have more confidence, and perform better academically. Let’s consider how to incorporate these tips into our practice to strengthen relationships with our students and have a lasting impact on their future.