Relevance vs. Relationships: I’ve Got a Question?
Sep 30, 2015
Does having a relationship with a student automatically make an educator relevant to that student in the classroom?
I have had some interesting conversations about this topic, about “Generation Z,” the very students walking our halls right now, and the idea that a relationship does NOT equate to relevance in the classroom.
Let me explain how this all started. As a parent of two “Gen Z” kiddos, I’m trying to understand the balance of technology infused instruction vs. what might be considered traditional methods that will best meet my children’s learning needs. I want my kids to be successful, HAPPY Learners…so I’m trying to do a little research into what works for them now and how this might transition over time. During this “research” (I use that term loosely, considering I’m talking about my own 6 and 11 year olds) a question came up about relationships between students and teachers and how that relates with relevance that I found extremely interesting. I have my own opinion…but I want to hear yours!
Here’s what happened:
I spoke with a veteran teacher who is known for having great relationships with students. This teacher goes above and beyond to make sure her High School students know she is there for them inside and out of her classroom. She attends every extra-curricular event, remembers all birthdays, guides students through difficult times, and even accompanies students on college visits on her personal time when parents are unavailable/unwilling. However, she has been very reluctant to change her teaching style to meet the digital learning styles of many “Gen Z” learners who are now entering her classroom. (Let me quantify this by saying she is, in fact a “Good Teacher” & all around good person.)
While her colleagues are using engaging digital tools, students walk into her classroom, put their smartphones away and get out pencil and paper…every single day. She truly believes her strong relationships with students make it ok for her to continue to employ the stand and deliver lecture method and have students do paper and pencil essay work all day everyday. She believes her methods are as effective now as they were when she started 25 years ago. She doesn’t think “Digital” is more than a “Fad” and doesn’t want to change what has worked for so long.
I believe she is wrong. I engaged in a “What if” discussion with her. I told her I felt relationships were a very important piece of being a successful educator. I also assured her I felt there was a place for some of what she was doing in class. I then told her I didn’t understand how a dedicated educator like herself who I know wants what’s best for her students could limit them by not providing the digital skills they would be required to use when moving forward in college and careers. I suggested a mix of digital tools and her “old school” methods would better serve the students walking the halls today. She “Poo-Poo’ed” this as ridiculous. Then I specifically asked her which college she knew that accepted handwritten essays?
We talked further…I challenged her that having a good relationship with a student, caring about them and knowing them outside of the classroom didn’t translate to students finding your teaching methods to be relevant to their learning style. I suggested that, given the chance, most of her GenZ students would prefer to have a teacher using engaging, innovative practices more in line with what they would be required to use in college and the workforce, to her class, regardless of the level of their relationships with her. Does that mean the student wouldn’t still value this teacher and their relationship? No. It’s just about the way students learns, or prefers to learn.
OF COURSE WE WANT ALL STUDENTS TO HAVE BOTH!
I believe all students deserve teachers who are willing to stay relevant with their classroom practices and also work to form relationships with them.
But…that’s not my question…I want to know what you think?
“Can JUST RELATIONSHIPS Keep teachers Relevant to students in the classroom?”
Can’t wait to see what you think!