The public, since the time of John Dewey, has lamented the disappearance of the three “R’s” in education. It’s an expression archaic enough that it deserves explication for our younger readers: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. Anytime a reform movement has emerged in the education field, there’s always a hue and cry for the “3R’s”. Talk about a need to address critical thinking skills, civics, organizational skills, social-emotional literacy (SEL) and you can be certain there will be pushback from fundamentalists for a return to basics, the “3R’s”. Over the past several decades, there has emerged a recognition that there is in fact a fourth “R” in education. Relationships. Relationships are the 4th “R”.
This is not an original idea. I’ve written several posts about the critical nature of relationships in education. This notion dominates most education twitter chats and is the cornerstone of research on school culture. Because learning involves risk and vulnerability, it thrives in an environment characterized by trust, belonging, and love. Not just our kids, we all learn better when we have a strong positive relationship with the teacher and with the other learners.
Several of my colleagues have commented that it’s fortunate that the coronavirus came upon us in week 24 of the school year instead of week three. As I commented in a previous post, at my school we are reaping the benefits of a strong school culture that we have built. We place learning above compliance and we recognize the vital importance of relationships. If you didn’t use those 24 non-COVID weeks to develop strong, positive, caring relationships with your students and families, then you are in a lot of trouble trying to do so now on the other side of a device screen. The teachers in my school, when asked what they teach, won’t first say science, math or Spanish. Our teachers will say that they teach KIDS. We love our kids and we work hard to make sure they know it. To an extent, this culture has carried us through the quarantine.
But we’re in the home stretch of the school year at this point. What happens next. Can these connections be sustained over the internet? And how will we forge these relationships with our new kids next year?
More on this… meanwhile, wash ya hands.