Creating the Structures to Build Relationships
It’s no secret that relationships are important. Attuned, responsive, positive developmental relationships can help position students to take on new challenges and should become the foundation for all we do in schools all the time, but especially now during a time of crisis.
Intentionally structuring time and space to foster relationships, such as class meetings, peer mentoring, and small learning environments, can ensure that relationships among students and with adults can flourish.
Research and practice tell us that it is not just the presence of relational structures that make the difference in the lives of students — it is also the quality of ongoing interactions and experiences that personalize the learning environment and create more productive and engaging contexts for learning.
As we head into a new calendar year and the second half of the school year, it’s a good time for educators to take stock of the relational structures present in a classroom or school and reflect on how they’re working.
How are current structures optimizing student learning and thriving?
For example, while a teacher might run a daily class meeting, what are the experiences of students in that classroom and how do they view that meeting as helping them connect to fellow students?
Educators start by identifying the relational structures present in their school contexts, move on to interviewing a student and staff member to see what’s working, and finally, synthesizing what they’ve learned and planning for the next step.
Using this tool can help educators strengthen both structures that are working and structures that need some refinement. Reflecting and planning on these learnings can ensure the creation of high-quality time and space for relationships is central to discussions and decisions.