Relationships in the Classroom

A few years back I heard Dr. Russell Bishop speak in Simcoe County. Coming across this video of him has got me wired for sound again. 🙂

He has done research in New Zealand around Maori education. In New Zealand, educators face a similar situation as we do here. We are failing our First Nations population when it comes to our responsibility to educate all. There is a major achievement gap between First Nations and non-First Nations students. Dr. Bishop has come to the conclusion that a big part of success for Maori students is the relationships in the classrooms. I would assume (without any research of the sort – yet) that the same thing is true for our First Nations, Metis and Inuit students in Ontario. How wonderfully empowering is that for a teacher? All those times we’ve thrown our hands in the air saying “if only I could do something”, expressing that feeling of hopelessness which often turns into frustration. Well, it looks as if there just might be…

The reason I am so fascinated with Dr. Bishops work is that he’s actually found a way to work with educators to improve these relationships. That is amazing to me. I’ve helped colleagues and other educators work on specific skills (using technology, using math manipulatives, assessment techniques, rich tasks), but to work with teachers on something so personal is intimidating. My weak understanding of what he does (which may be wrong) is to create PLC within the schools and send in trained facilitators. What I wouldn’t give to be able to attend the training for one of these facilitators! I am unaware of any place in Ontario that is working with teachers to improve the relationships with students in the classroom. Please, please correct me if I’m wrong, I’d love to know of places that are focusing on this.
I would like to extend my thought one step further – that this building of relationships between teacher and students would also improve the success of students at-risk (whether they are of an Aboriginal background or not). They do not relate to the school culture. The one where reading and writing well are what get recognized. The one where you learn while sitting in a desk. So, if we cannot change everything about the educational system quickly enough, maybe we could at least focus on these teacher-student relationships to help improve access to education for many struggling students.
Now, if only I knew HOW to develop the ability to build these relationships… 🙂

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KV7Qf-UviKI]

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