Positive, Strong Relationships = Successful School

Addie Christian

Head of Junior Programme, Heritage Xperiential Learning School, Gurugram

What is the most significant aspect of setting the stage, so a school is successful? The answer is one simple word: RELATIONSHIPS, yet it is complex. The key to a successful school is to build positive, effective relationships between all stakeholders. Relationships between all the people within the educational community set the culture of a school. This results in the learning environment becoming a safe zone for everyone. Students LOVE coming to school. They want to learn, so they are more actively engaged in their learning. Teachers and staff feel valued, which enhances their work ethic. Parents feel that they are truly part of the learning community, so they are supportive. Relationships build trust and instil a positive culture where hard work by all is valued and appreciated.

Knowing the influence that strong relationships have on the success of a school, how do we build positive relationships between all stakeholders? First, relationships are personal, which means that one must make personal connections with one another. One of the most precious things in life is TIME. Relationships take time to develop, and each person must be willing to invest their time in building them. Appreciating people’s efforts, attitudes, and accomplishments is an important way to foster relationships. Another vital piece of the puzzle in fostering relationships is active listening. The heart of a successful school is its culture, which is defined by the relationships between students, faculty, and parents.

Connecting with people on a personal level is one of the building blocks to fostering strong relationships. Recognizing people as individuals is imperative. At every opportunity, people should be addressed by their name. This lets them know that they are seen; they are not just students, teachers, or parents. Showing genuine interest in their personal lives deepens the personal connection. Merely asking a student what his favourite sport or book is, or anything that does not have a connection with the school goes a long way. It validates that he matters and that the relationship is not based solely on school. Personal connections are vital to cultivating positive relationships.

According to Terry Heick in his article published in TeachThought, teachers make about 1,500 decisions a day. This statistic illustrates the limited amount of time educators have daily. Whenever the opportunity arises, time must be given to students, peers, and parents. When students ask questions, even if it is a repeated question, teachers must take the time to acknowledge the question and answer it. When students share stories in excitement, they should, in turn, be acknowledged excitedly. Ensuring that teachers have adequate time to have frequent, purposeful dialogues with parents is paramount to the development of positive relationships. It is essential for school leaders and teachers to allocate time, at the minimum, weekly for dialogues and discussions. Maximizing time is extremely important to sustain positive, working relationships.

Appreciation is key to any positive relationship. It has been defined as “acknowledging the value and meaning of something-an event, a person, a behaviour, an object-and feeling a positive emotional connection to it” (Adler and Fagley, 2005, p.81). Demonstrating appreciation can be done in many different manners. One can simply verbalize it. For example, “Ashok, the variety of colours that you put in your drawing catches the viewer’s attention. Your attention to detail is appreciated.” Emails can also be used as an avenue to communicate one’s appreciation. Within the email, visuals can be added to deepen the message. Lastly, a hand-written note is the most personal way to illustrate appreciation. Margaret Cousins, an Irish-Indian educationist, said, “ Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”

What is active listening? Active listening involves listening with all the senses. Relationships are solidified when all stakeholders actively listen to one another. When a person is talking, eye contact is essential to convey that one is listening or paying attention to what is being said. Paraphrasing is another way to communicate that one is listening. Finally, a person’s posture confirms or denies if he is actively listening. Is the person leaning in or leaning away as you speak? People feel valued when people listen to them. This is a key component of strong relationships.

Strong, positive relationships between all stakeholders are the key to a successful school. Creating personal connections with one another deepens the bonds between people. Time is one of our most precious commodities. For relationships to flourish, teachers and leaders must make time for students and parents. When a person is shown appreciation, he will always do more than expected. Actively listening to one another is a sign of a positive relationship. Relationships are the heartbeats of a successful school.

Addie Christian

Head of Junior Programme, Heritage Xperiential Learning School, Gurugram