One Trusted Adult

I recently read Brooklyn Raney’s One Trusted Adult. A longtime independent school teacher, coach, and administrator, Raney surveys the research – and provides page after page of colorful anecdotes drawn from her experience in schools – about how critical it is that an adolescent feels a connection to at least one trusted adult mentor outside the home. The research tells us that that kind of relationship is a protective factor against a range of behavioral and mental health issues. It also opens the door to student learning, productivity, curiosity, and engagement in school and beyond; kids learn when they feel safe and seen. These insights are why we commit so deeply to our advising system, insist on small classes, encourage one-on-one extra help with teachers, and aspire that every one of our students will be known and loved by the adults in this community. 

Raney also discusses the seemingly contradictory – but deeply important – insight that adult-student boundaries are a key ingredient in creating that close connection. Every year during our faculty-staff in-service retreat, we engage in training with outside counsel on boundaries; we review policies and discuss a series of case studies to explore what is appropriate mentorship and what crosses the line. Student safety concerns are paramount. But we also dig into this work to reinforce what the research tells us: kids may say they want their teachers to be their friends, but what they really need are mentors –  adults who care for them enough to create appropriate distance and guardrails in order to give students the space they need to get their needs met.

While the book is written for educators, it may be interesting for parents as well and is a quick, entertaining read.

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