As a 12-year-old boy, there was nothing I looked forward to more than recess. I distinctly remember a day 28 years ago when my teacher said he would play basketball with us on the playground. For the first time, I had a teacher who invested in me relationally. He spent all year investing in us, getting to know our families and us, and making sure that we knew we were valued. This man was not a veteran teacher. He wasn’t even an experienced teacher. He was a first-year teacher! To this day, I remember lessons he taught us and projects that he had us do. How did someone with so little teaching experience create such a lasting impact on his students? His secret was that he knew the importance of building relationships with his students.
Over the years, I have kept in touch with Mr. Rich Kline. He is still teaching, and his students all have such wonderful things to say about him, but one thing that rings true for almost all his students is that Mr. Kline cared about them and made them feel valued. Recently, I had Rich (he asked me to call him that, but I must admit, no matter what age you become, your teachers will always be Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so) come and visit my classroom. It was wonderful to hang out and visit, and we reminisced about his first year of teaching. He looked back with very fond memories, and I could tell he got as much from that year as we (his students) did. As we chatted, he said to me, “I am proud of you.” Those words meant so much to me. Twenty-eight years later and he was still investing.
Relationships are a powerful antidote to burnout. Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D. wrote in Psychology Today, “Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.” When you read that definition, what part is addressed through positive relationships? ALL OF IT! There is a reason that the Global Elements of Effective Flipped Learning (GEEFL) highlights the element, Relationships. It is foundational to all other things that occur within our classroom.
“I see you, you are important to me and I value you.”
Our stress level goes down when we are in an environment with individuals with whom we have positive relationships. Douglas LaBier, Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today, “positive support not only helps buffer individuals from negative effects of stress, but also by enabling them to flourish either because of or in spite of their circumstances.” For years now, I have been able to teach in an environment in which my students invest in me as much as I invest in them. When I ask them how their weekend was, they follow up with, “How was your weekend, Mr. Jones?” And what is amazing is that they really care. They get to know me and I get to know them.
When we connect with our students and invest in the building of relationships with them, we can see them. The most common greeting in the Zulu tribe is Sawubona. It literally means “I see you, you are important to me and I value you.”
We invest in what we value. I asked Jon Harper, host of the podcast My Bad, why he thought flipped classroom teachers don’t burn out, and his response speaks to the last part of the definition of burnout. He said that flipped teachers know that they are making a difference in their classroom. He went on to say that “in a flipped classroom, teachers can get down and meet with the students and individualize more with what students need. Flipped teachers get to see the results of their efforts more immediately.”
Flipped classrooms are rooted in relationships. They are the heartbeat of the classroom. Twenty-eight years from now, I hope that my students will look back to the time in my classroom with the same fondness as I have for Mr. Kline. Our students may not remember every factor, every equation we teach, but they will forever remember how we made them feel. Thank you, Mr. Kline, for being the teacher you are, and for continuing to value the importance of relationships in the classroom. Thank you, Flipped Learning for making these relationships possible.