Do it for the connections

We’ve heard the saying and probably uttered it often, that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.  We know many inventors and their creations like the Wright brothers and the first airflight,  Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone, and even Benjamin Franklin and bifocals.  We have no records on who invented the wheel, yet we realize how significant an achievement it is.  Many of our students longboard around campus and town as a result of wheel utilization.  My daughter turned 16 and is looking forward to passing her driver’s license test, so she can experience the freedom associated with driving.  I have piles of dirt in my backyard that I need to move but I’m holding out until I can borrow a wheelbarrow to ease my workload.  As significant as the wheel has been, what optimizes its usefulness are connections.  A wheel needs to be connected to an axle to make the bicycle a form of recreation, transportation and exercise.  Likewise, people need to be connected to others, and as educators we have great power to connect students with content, skills, ideas, other students and their communities.  We recognize the dangers of individuals who are isolated and disconnected from society and meaningful relationships.

In Robert Blum’s article, “A Case for School Connectedness,” he states:

Teachers are obviously central to the equation. Although school connectedness might suggest smaller class sizes, the classroom’s culture seems to matter more than its size does. Effective teachers can create connectedness in the classroom in a number of ways. When teachers make learning meaningful and relevant to their students’ lives, students develop a stake in their own education. When teachers create a clear classroom structure with consistent expectations for behavior and performance, they provide a healthy setting in which students can exercise autonomy and practice decision-making skills. Teachers build connectedness in the classroom when they encourage team learning exercises. Cooperative learning tends to break down social isolation by integrating student teams across gender, academic ability, and ethnicity. Rewarding a variety of student achievements and recognizing student progress—not only top performance—are also important components.

 

One reason the connections with students is so critical is that teachers may prove to be one of the individuals in a student’s life who clearly demonstrates belief in them even when they don’t believe in themselves.  We have all had times when we have set goals and fallen on our face or experienced setbacks, and our students also have those experiences.  The video below is entitled “Never, ever give up.  Arthur’s Inspirational Transformation!” and although it is related to health, it demonstrates the commitment to a journey of improvement and the disappointment and failure that seems to characterize many people.  I’m so grateful for the educators I know who have worked to build connections with their students and my own children.  I am inspired by those who have served as the “Diamond Dallas Page”  to a student’s “Arthur.”  I think this video can also encourage us to press through those moments where we like Arthur have felt our efforts were futile.  As Arthur states, “Just because I can’t do it today doesn’t mean I won’t be able to do it someday.”

The article on connectedness can be found at

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr05/vol62/num07/A-Case-for-School-Connectedness.aspx

 The video can be found at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX9FSZJu448

I’m inspired and encouraged by those who invest in the lives of young people.  Those are the educators who meet students where they are and help them grow to what they can become.  They do it for them and as a result, the connections they facilitate are transformative and lifesaving.

 

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