When I was the high school principal at two high schools with very high low economic population, I would tell my teachers, “Your classroom is the only level playing field all of your students have.” I would give the example of my daughter; Emily Roberts goes home to a nice house, a place to study, a computer with internet access, and two parents with two degrees and high expectations from both. Joe Poverty goes home to a house with no place to study, maybe one parent or no parent(s) since they had to work 2-3 jobs, is responsible for preparing supper for his siblings and getting them to bed. And then is he able to begin his homework. He may have come home from working at his job to help support the family or from participating in an extra-curricular activity. I would then ask, “When assigning homework, do you consider what your students go home to? Is it fair that you grade the homework of all students with the same grading standards?”
Several times when a student was suspended for a discipline issue, and did not have a way home, I would drive him home. This practice opened my eyes to what many of my students went home to. During the drive I would talk to him/her about the issue, but more times than not, I would just talk to help me understand what he was going through at that time of the school year. I sometimes built closer relationships with these kids (low economic backgrounds) than with other students. I soon found that when I built a relationship with them, they would almost always turn around their bad choices and would soon begin to improve their performance at school.
I think all educators would agree that we must build relationships to discover/understand about our kids’ lives, other than just them as students. Once those relationships are established, we see our kids grow, learn, excel, and perform at a higher level than we thought possible. When I was discussing her book, Julie Adams (@adamsteaching), Game Changers 7 Instructional Practices That Catapult Student Achievement, said “Relationships maybe THE most important factor of a productive learning environment." Daisy Dyer Duerr (@daisydyerduerr), principal at a K-12 campus in Arkansas, who moderates the weekly #ArkEdChat, continually stresses the importance of relationships in her chats. I could go on and on about all the professional educators who know and see the value of relationships with our students.As educators, when we realize that our school is the only level playing field that our kids have and when we work (yes it takes work and time) to build relationships with them, we will see them perform for us and have better discussions at a higher cognitive level, because they want to please us. Of course there are boundaries, but when we honor students as people worthy of respect, this will lead to enhanced learning. This is enhancing kids' lives, which goes beyond teaching them a subject matter.