Why are Teacher Student Relationships Important? Because:

  • “Great teachers focus not on compliance, but on connections and relationships.” PJ Caposey
  • “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” James Comer
  • “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt

These are just a few of the many quotes you can find about the correlation between teaching and forming relationships with students. Before you can reach a student, or really anyone, you need to show that person you care about his or her needs.
On my very first day of teaching, first-period, I had a conflict with a student. We’ll call her Rae. Rae had her nose pierced, which was against school dress code. We had just been told we had to enforce said dress code, and I asked her to remove it. Her response was “With all due respect, why?” I only had the answer, “it’s in the rules.” Which, let’s face it, isn’t really an answer. Flash forward a few months. Same girl, same issue. This time, when I asked her to remove her piercing, she complied immediately. What was the difference?
The difference was, over the months in between, I spent time with her. I learned her story. I learned about her love of reading and singing. I learned about her mother’s death and how she felt about that. I cared about her, not as a student, but as a person. It was her knowing that I cared about what happened to her. Because I cared about her, she did very well in school. She has since graduated from college, and she sent me a nice letter thanking me for caring about her.
Now I don’t tell this story to talk myself up, but to exemplify the idea that relationships can help students grow and learn. My favorite aspect of working at Sunrise is the opportunity I have to form lasting relationships with the girls I teach, much like the relationship I have with Rae. We create several opportunities to build those relationships. Last week, for example, we went camping with the Sunrise girls. It was an activity I had looked forward to all year. It was a chance to hang out with some of the girls, play games, go hiking, and just have experiences together to get to know each other better. It was a chance for them to see the teachers and therapists in a different setting, and a time for us to grow closer.
Along with just hanging out, being together, it is also a good time for us to teach them some interesting tidbits that are unique to Southern Utah. For example, two teachers took a group of girls on a hike to see some of the petroglyphs near Snow Canyon State Park. The girls were able to not only experience hiking in an absolutely gorgeous setting with incredible views but also learned a bit about the previous civilizations that were in the area and appreciate the beauty they left behind.
For another outing, two more teachers took a group of girls to the Mountain Meadow Massacre National Historical site where we taught the girls about the events leading up to the conflict and how the conflict was then covered up. While it is a dark stain on Utah’s history, it is important to learn from it and show that we still honor the lives that were lost. While there, we paid tribute by leaving a small stone to honor the lives of those lost and to show that we would not forget them.
We also took the opportunity to visit some lava tubes, and using glow sticks, played hide and seek with the girls. After which we did a bit of service by cleaning up some of the litter that other groups had left behind. This proved to be the most requested outing of the trip.
All of these experiences, the different outing, the hiking, and the learning about Southern Utah, were great fun. It was a great chance for the girls to see us in a less formal setting, and for us to see them in a different setting. It helped us get to know each other, and appreciate each other, which in the end, helps with a much larger goal: to form lasting relationships and help heal families.