Nelson Mandela is quoted as saying “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Today, more than ever before, the wisdom in these words resonates in many domains. Education provides knowledge and knowledge promotes growth. This is true when speaking about academics; and it is true when speaking about life. But perhaps most importantly, this is true when speaking about relationships.
Abraham Maslow is an American psychologist best known for creating “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” Maslow suggested that there were specific human needs that must be satisfied before an individual could become his “best self.” When applied to education, Maslow’s theory suggests that before a student can do their best learning, they must have their physical needs met. They must feel safe and have a system of support. They must have a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. Teachers and other school staff are tasked with guiding students toward becoming successful and contributing members of society. When one takes Maslow’s hierarchy of needs into account it is clear that, at the most basic level, the key to successfully educating children is relationships.
Relationships have been, and continue to be, a central theme throughout the St. James School District. The administrators, teachers, and staff members of our district understand the importance of connecting with each student. They understand that in order to make a personal connection with a student they must not only know the circumstances that affect student learning, they must understand the implications of those circumstances. Our faculty and staff actively seek out professional development opportunities that support their own growth so they are better equipped to meet the needs of students. They explore programs that address the social needs of students so they can more efficiently support students who are struggling. As a district, we strive to improve relationships so we can improve learning.
One way the school district demonstrates a dedication to building supportive relationships is through qualitative and quantitative data collection. This month, the counselors in each building issued a student survey that allowed students to identify a staff member who they felt comfortable talking to if they had a problem or concern. This survey looked different in each building because they were written to be age-appropriate. However the end goals were the same – identify students who did not have a “safe” person within the school and reinforce relationships that have already been developed. Faculty and staff are now working to build relationships with those students who need a safe person. This is a critical need during a time of isolation and mental health concerns due to the multiple stresses of living through a pandemic. Through this exercise, we can make sure that ALL of our students know they are valued and important.
One of the goals of St. James R-1 School District is to ensure our students are ready to become successful members of our community upon graduation. The educators of this community know that the best way to promote positive change is to provide students with a strong foundation from which to grow. They understand that educational advancement grows from the development of strong, caring relationships. The faculty and staff of St. James R-1 Schools know that while education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world, relationships are the most powerful weapon you can use to change a life.