By Meagan Wilks
Director of Special Services
I saw this quote the other day: “The most important thing in life are the connections you make with others.”
This statement struck me as powerful. I can recall a handful of positive connections that I have made with people over my lifetime. A few that stand out would be my first grade teacher, who was always interested in talking with me about what I was drawing; and my high school band teacher, who supported and encouraged me to keep practicing my instrument. Both of these teachers showed a genuine interest in me. These connections have helped mold me into who I am today.
One reason that connections with other people are important is that they help increase protective factors. Protective factors are conditions or attitudes in individuals that eliminate risk and increase health and well-being. When an individual knows that others care about them and want to be a part of their lives, they feel less isolated, which can then encourage a stronger feeling of self-worth. According to Derek Peterson, the founder of the Institute for Community and Adolescent Resiliency, “a student is more likely to thrive when they’re more connected to other people.” His data says “every kid needs at least five supportive adults in their lives to reduce the possibility of risk factors.” These adults create a web of support surrounding the student.
Schools are a huge part of the supportive webs for students. Connections are built every day between school staff and students. To foster these relationships, school staff must show a genuine interest in getting to know a student on a more personal level, such as their struggles, goals and accomplishments. For a student, just knowing that a trusted adult is there to talk to can provide a huge amount of support and encouragement.
Teacher connections to students also influence student achievement. According to Jon Hattie, who completed extensive research on the top influences on student achievement, found if a teacher thought a student could learn and treated the student that way, the student would have more overall growth in academic achievement. In other words, when students know that teachers care about them, they perform better in the classroom. This concept is also shared by Rita Pierson in her Ted Talk “Every Kid Needs a Champion.” She states that “students don’t work for teachers they do not like.” Relationships and the connections that teachers can make are critical to ensure positive student achievement and self-efficacy.
As I walk through the hallways in the schools at Tippecanoe Valley, I can’t help but smile. I see teachers talking and laughing with students. I see cafeteria workers and custodians having conversations with kids about their interests. I see teachers high-fiving students after they have completed a tough math problem. I see school staff cheering on the sidelines at athletic games. I see teachers supporting students who are struggling with anxiety or stress. I can see the power of connections at Tippecanoe Valley. This is just one more way that Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation does whatever it takes to equip all students to be outstanding today, tomorrow and beyond.