Schools are powerfully positioned to bring about social change, justice, and the human renaissance necessary for our future, but we must re-imagine our relationships within them.

What if we gathered around the learning and it was central?  Teachers, students, and parents could create relationships at this Table of Learning.

I believe in our powerful role as adults in relationship to set the table by designing communities of trust.  Parents could take on a more meaningful role in schools, powerfully partnered with teachers, engaged in our vision for thriving.

This week, in my workshop for educators entitled Cultivating Connection in Schools, we discussed our passion to be culture-builders.  What is nourishing connection?  Why does it matter?  What powerful tools do we have at our disposal to bring people together, across generations, linking arms?  How can we honour our diverse ethnicities, life experiences, and differences?

Historically schools were a cornerstone for our democratic society.

Sustainability as a nation is one of the key functions of education and a primary goal of our curriculum.  America’s founding fathers knew this important role.  In 1902 John Dewey instructed,

“The conception of school as a social centre is born of our entire democratic movement.”

Schools are inclusive spaces.

What better place to build trust, bring about dialogue, and consider social reform than in an inclusive space designed for thriving.  Modelling warm connections, respectful debate and changemaking with our children is an avenue to thriving.  It is a grace of great things to be together, embrace diversity, and learn from each other.  It looks like homemade chicken soup dinners in classrooms, afterschool pottery programs, and singing “Dona Nobis Pacem” as a whole school.  We can find it led by heroes and healers.

We need help in our schools.

Teachers are heroic and exhausted.  We can’t do it alone.  We’ve been trying. The Center for Courage and Renewal reports the almost desperate statistics with the hopefulness of building community in our schools.  We need each other.

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Strong relationships offer powerful adaptive and protective factors in our rapidly changing environment.

Humans are highly adaptive and we are preparing for exponential change.  We can navigate change and we can do it more effectively together.  When parents create warm and positive relationships with their child’s teachers, they are literally gathering a village of nurturing adults to “bring up” their child.  This is important because peers will not be able to “bring up” your child. It is within the warm adult relationships that children will be able to develop healthy attachments.  Children must attach to both parent and teacher.

Safe relationships help us all calm and manage stress, but especially the child. Kindness builds each other up during challenges.  We can stand together and call out the best of our humanity.  It is a glorious mess, yet we continue holding the powerful banner of ‘together.’

We must consider how children thrive.

Yesterday a 25-year veteran Kindergarten teacher joined my workshop and lamented, “Young children are coming to my classroom with a diminished ability and even desire to relate. They seem disconnected and have difficulties with friendship.”  At the very moment we look this reality in the mirror, we know with more certainty that meaningful relationships are the #1 contributor to our happiness and thriving.  When we look each other in the eye, smile, offer the work of our hands, and get involved, we help children understand community and learn how to connect.

We must hold individualism and personalization in balance with relationship and community.

Selfhood and belonging grow up together.  I’ll never forget the deep discussion with our teaching team when we were crafting our manifesto about personalization and championing the extraordinary potential of every child. We talked about it at length. At the end, I was walking down the stairs with my colleague who reflected, “Let’s not forget, we need each other.  Relationship is as essential as individualism.”  It was a major shift in my thinking about the purpose for schools and Learn Forward believes in both journeys, two of the most important journeys of a child.