Teaching is about Relationships

Last Saturday, we celebrated this school’s 30th year with a wonderful celebration at the Museum of Fine Arts. Early in the program, we all watched a video featuring teachers past and present, parents, alumni, and others talking about their BUA journeys. Every time a teacher appeared on the screen, the audience spontaneously erupted in applause and cheers. While those of us who planned the event did not anticipate that response, we were not surprised either.

Teaching is about relationships. Over the past few weeks, I’ve visited about a dozen classes. Styles and content varied. But what was consistent was a deep, palpable trust between teachers and students. Teachers joked, praised, challenged, and cajoled – all with the clear subtext that they loved these young people. Students, feeling secure in that love, spoke up, tried new approaches, took risks, laughed, struggled, and demonstrated the vulnerability it takes to learn and grow. 

We know that kids learn from people they trust – that emotional safety and connection open the door to learning. Michael Reichert and Joseph Nelson, whom I had the pleasure of collaborating with on several projects years ago, offered an evidence-backed overview of this idea in the context of boys’ education. David Brooks wrote a powerful, personal version of this story in an opinion piece. And, for anybody looking for a pick me up, I suggest this TED talk by Rita Pierson. In the end, though, all we need is to think about our own experiences – about a teacher who took the time to get to know us and saw something in us that perhaps we didn’t even see in ourselves. Those people changed our lives. And we are blessed to have a school full of them here at BUA.

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