“The reality of education is that people learn from people they love,” says New York Times columnist David Brooks in a recent National Public Radio interview discussing his new book, The Social Animal. “We’ve spent all this time with big schools, small schools,” Brooks later says. “But what really matters is how good people are at relating to one another.”
How cool is that?! A respected journalist and bestselling author--and a non-educator at that--drawing attention to an often-overlooked hallmark of great teachers: strong relationships with their students. At the same time, if we as educators react to Mr. Brooks’ comments by focusing on just one skill or attribute of great teachers--relationship-building--we’ll overlook other skills and attributes of great teachers.
That’s exactly what happened when Maurice Elias cited Mr. Brooks’ book in a recent blog post, What’s the Secret to Effective Classroom Management?, where he stressed the importance of “trusting, respectful, caring relationships between students and teachers.” My issue with Dr. Elias’ post has nothing to do with his premise--which I embrace--but rather his packaging, as reflected in the title. His article, after all, isn’t about classroom management, but rather relationship-building and/or behavior management.
And though you could make a case for relationship-building or behavior management being a component of classroom management, it’s at best one spoke in a wheel that includes materials management, policies and procedures, classroom layout, time management, and instruction. (Yes instruction, since there are unique management implications associated with each teaching method--from lecture to cooperative groups to technology integration).
Make no mistake: every outstanding teacher I’ve known has been able to build strong relationships with students. But they’ve also been able to meet the other myriad challenges of managing a classroom of 30 kids. Fact is, you can be the world’s greatest relationship-builder, and you’ll still be toast as a teacher if you’re a poor planner or disorganized--a point Martin Haberman speaks to in his book Star Teachers: “I have never known a star teacher without a high level of organizational ability or a quitter/failure who excelled in this function.”
A lesson here is that we as educators must always properly frame our conversations about teaching effectiveness. Conversations that should include but not be limited to the importance of strong teacher-student relationships and how to create them.
Image provided with permission by GECC
The opinions expressed in Coach G’s Teaching Tips are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.