At the beginning of my career, I was told (more than once) to “not smile until after Christmas”. As a new teacher, I was told that it would be important to ensure that students respected me and took me seriously, and if they saw that I was “too nice”, they would lose respect for me. I am not the only teacher to have received this advice in my career.
Yet I genuinely like students. I always have. So the thought was that I need to be something I am not. Personally, I feel a much better connection with people that seem to genuinely care about me. I am not talking about being “friends”, but have a caring nature for those that you serve.
But some people will take this as “do you expect me to be friends with the kids?” Not at all. I expect students to be treated with a caring and respectful nature while having high expectations. Kind of the same way we would want to be treated as adults.
I wrote this in “The Innovator’s Mindset“, from the chapter “Relationships, Relationships, Relationships”:
If we want meaningful change, we have to make a connection to the heart before we can make a connection to the mind. Spending time to develop relationships and building trust is crucial to moving forward as a whole. Without culture, there is no culture of innovation. It all starts by creating an environment where people feel cared for, supported, and are nurtured—the very things we know that impact learning for students in the classroom.
In a world where digital interaction is the norm, we crave human interaction more than ever. That’s why the three things you need to ensure that innovation flourishes in your organization are relationships, relationships, and relationships. Fifty years ago, relationships were the most important thing in our schools, and fifty years from now, it will be no different.
You can push people, but they need to know that you have their back. The best professional and personal relationships I have had exemplified those two traits.
The next time you hear someone share, “Don’t smile until after Christmas” as an educational strategy, I encourage you to ask them how they would do in that same environment? I don’t think I would want to be there past Thanksgiving (Canadian or American!).
I have changed a lot of my thinking in the years of writing this blog, but my belief in the importance of relationships in education will only get stronger over time. It is the foundation we build on to create amazing schools. It is not the only thing, but without, you have nothing.