Monday, September 26, 2011

Relationships Trump Curriculums

September is the month when our recent grads come back to visit and tell us how they are doing in their new junior college.  Their stories resemble one another: "I was the only one who knew what the teacher was talking about!" or "I got the best mark in the class on my essay".  That's great and it reassures me that our curriculum is really preparing them for higher education, but that is only a small part of this story.  Why do they feel the need to return?  Are they boasting? (Maybe just a tad.)  Are they lonely for their old haunt?  (Only a few.)  My sense is that their need to return is a testimony to the importance of relationships in learning.

Think back to your own high school and junior college days and recollect the teachers who had the greatest impact on your life.  My hunch is that the relationship with these significant teachers was nourishing and probably provided sustained encouragement well into your adult years.

It's the relationship we remember more than the curriculum.  A few days ago, I received an email from a recent grad grappling with universal questions of meaning.  She must have enrolled in a philosophy course.  Maybe they were studying Nietzsche?  Whatever was happening in her life, she was, in her words, "thinking about death and feeling bad about it".  So she reached out to me in an email.

Philosophy for Teens 2011

Can you remember when you asked these same questions about life, meaning, and death?  We all do.  These are among the most important questions we ever ask and teachers have an important role in presenting these timeless issues.  Did you turn to a friend, an adult you trusted or did you keep it to yourself?

I have many answers and no answers for my student who looked to me for guidance.  I answered her questions, shared my own experiences and suggested several books for her.     But her instinct to reach out to her teacher and share her intimate questions about the world and her life to me, is better than gold.  This is the great beauty of teaching and learning; the relationship is the power that fuels both.  Relationships, not the curriculum, are what we remember about our schooling.  As teachers, we need to remember that when we rush to finish the unit, the book and the course.


  1. Learning Curves,
    I could not agree more! Thanks for posting.

  2. This is so true. As I am becoming a teacher myself, one of the things I am most looking forward to is working with teachers I had in high school and letting them know how important they were to me. I know I will carry a little piece of each of them into my classroom and hopefully will pass what they gave to me on to my own students.

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