Learning Relationships: “Kids Can’t Learn From Teachers They Don’t Like”

most-astounding-factLearning Relationships: “Kid’s Can’t Learn From Teachers They Don’t Like”

The following TEDTalk by Rita Pierson has been making the digital rounds lately, and for good reason: it reminds us of why we all got involved in teaching to begin with.

While curriculum, assessment, and instructional design may be how you parse your thinking now, at one point it probably had more to do with content, curiosity, and relationships. In this talk, the 40-year veteran teacher reminds us that not only do relationships matters, sometimes they’re all that matters.

“Kids can’t learn from teachers they don’t like.”


She goes on to offer some strategies for building relationships–and doing so around important concepts of authenticity, selflessness, and self-esteem, including:

1. Seeking first to understanding instead of being understood

2. Apologizing when necessary

3. Promoting self-esteem with (even cheesy) enthusiasm and simple reminders

4. Try new grading practices (+2 instead of -18, or 10%, or F)

How–or why–should teachers proceed focusing on relationships in lieu of academic priorities, distracting and intimidating policies, personal biases, and even challenging students?

“We show up to work when we don’t feel like it, we listen to policy that doesn’t make sense, and we teach anyway…because that’s what we do. Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion..an adult who will not give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and who insists that they become the best that they can possibly be?”


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