The three Rs? What about relationships?
In a recent article for TES, Clare Jarmy, Bedales Head of Academic Enrichment and Head of Religious Studies and Philosophy, explores the importance of relationships to good learning in the wake of Andrea Zafirakou, associate deputy head at a London comprehensive school, being awarded the Global Teacher Prize.
Andrea received the award for the outstanding quality of her relationships – with staff, students, parents and the wider community. Clare says: “In a tough school where children are subject to recruitment by local gangs, she reaches out. She learns the basics of students’ languages, protects them from the gang members outside the gates and organises evening and weekend classes to provide a ‘safe space’ outside school hours.”
Andrea’s emphasis on the quality of relationships is reinforced by the celebrated report Visible Learning by Professor John Hattie which brings together 800 meta studies in an effort to quantify what makes a difference to student results. The findings show a strong correlation between teachers who plan based on individual students’ prior learning and achievement. Clare says: “Really understanding your students is linked to a significant difference in how they do. Teaching feels different, it works better, when you really know the kids.”
Bedales has always placed great importance on good relationships. Staff and students know each other by their first names, with ‘handshaking’ – the ritual of every student shaking hands with every member of staff and saying goodnight at the conclusion of assembly – dating back to the school’s inception.
Clare concludes: “If we don’t build relationships with students then we cannot hope to serve them well. When people look back on their best teachers, it is for their warmth, integrity in interactions, going the extra mile, demonstrating care, sharing passions, that they are remembered. Think about your favourite teacher. I bet I’m right.”
The full article can be seen on the TES website (subscription may be required).