All of us interact with students as we encounter them in our classrooms, hallways, cafeteria, parking lot, sports fields and courts, or even off campus. The question to be answered is, “Are our encounters with students really making a difference in their lives?”
Each of us can think back over the years and identify those significant people in our own lives that really made a difference. It may have been a school teacher, coach, or Sunday school teacher. For me, it was Peter Koeshall, my junior high Sunday school teacher. The relationships he established with the 12 boys in his Sunday school class had a lasting influence. It was this relationship that afforded the foundation for these boys to receive the words he spoke and the actions he displayed, his values and worldview, all of which were transferred into our lives.
Making a difference in the lives of students begins by building relationships.
When it comes to influencing young people, recent research proves what most educators already knew; it's all about relationship. As it turns out, teachers' relational skills are overwhelmingly related to student success:
1. Student's sense of being liked, respected, and valued by a teacher predicted whether they would value the subject matter.
2. Students who believed their teacher cared for them believed they learned more.
3. Students' feelings of being accepted by teachers were significantly related to emotional, cognitive and behavioral engagement in class.
4. Students' achievement, motivation, and self-esteem were significantly associated with teachers' interpersonal relationship skills. (Cultivate Project)
Speaking into the Lives of Students
Added research also shows that high school students who had adults speaking into their lives “had a greater awareness of God's presence, connected to God in times of suffering, felt realistically accepted by God and were secure in their relationships with Him.”
The research provides conclusive results of the following:
1. Values and worldviews can only be transmitted reliably in the context of mentoring and community.
2. Mentoring provides the sort of relationship that helps students maintain and grow in their faith.
Encounters of the Best Kind
As we encounter students our goal is to speak into their lives, whether the encounter is in our class, on a team, in a club or cafeteria and those we encounter on and off campus. We need to establish a personal relationship that communicates to them in word and deed with a message that they are valuable, expecting this relationship to bring out the best in their spiritual, social and academic life.
The Message Sent
The relationships we build will send a strong message to our parents that our school has a uniqueness that provides an added value to the financial investment and sacrifices our families experience in order to attend.