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The student-teacher relationship is one of the big keys to education. Let’s innovate.

The COVID-19 disruption is a really an opportunity for collaborating and building stronger relationships.

JACKIE JODL: What's very important to understand about the literature, the research, the evidence based is that relationships are important for all learners, but they're even more important for those learners who are more at risk. So, if you look at the research for one great example is that there are tremendous differences in educational outcomes for males versus females and it's not often talked about. But, what you find when you really look at that research is that relationships for boys are even more important than they are for girls in terms of driving their engagement and ultimately their persistence, their ability to sustain their performance in school and ultimately to graduate, to attend college. So, that to me is why I think that when we're talking about this new environment and everyone is talking about widening disparities, when you look at any of those populations were we suspect they're going to be already exist and continuing to be contributions to the disparities relationships are going to be even more important.

The question prior to COVID was so does technology really contribute to better student learning? That's an open question. And now there's an entire shift, now the question is okay it has to contribute to better student learning. We have to use it as an opportunity to re-envision education. So, how are we going to figure this out? How can it contribute to better student learning? And given that relationships are the foundation of student learning, you know, the mediator is of course engagement, then how are we going to figure that out? And I don't really see those conversations occurring right now. I see it much more on a technical level okay we need what platforms creating access, you know, of course to students who don't have access to Internet in their homes, all those other questions that I think are obviously important, but the bigger one that's going to take some real work is figuring out how to make relationships real in an online remote learning or even a hybrid setting.

I come from a family of teachers and the best example of a teacher where I think a teacher that just gave me a great inspiring story is my younger sister Susie, who is a kindergarten teacher; she's been a kindergarten teacher for 35 years in a working class middle-class suburb in Minnesota. And what she decided to do early on is she decided to really engage students by bringing them into her life at home. So, for example, her dog Oli, Oliver, a little teeny yippee kind of a dog has become part of her math class. Her piano in her living room has become part of the music lessons. Her yoga mat is part of her recess. So, she's really brought them into her life and through that she's been able to build a more personal relationship with her students because one of the things that every kindergarten student is curious about is what's going on in his kindergarten teacher's house. And so, she took advantage of that curiosity to engage them in learning.

This disruption is viewed as also an opportunity by many stakeholders, you know, from the policy maker in the governor's office, from the higher ed folks that I talk to at the University of Virginia, from all the teachers that I talk to, to the parents as well. I think the parents among those groups of parents are less likely to really be able to envision this as an opportunity because they're so concerned about the immediate consequences, but I think that overall that this is going to force a coming together of all the different stakeholders to say okay we've got to make sure that we do this right this time.

  • Relationships are important for all learners, says strategic education advisor Jackie Jodl, but they are particularly important to those who are at risk. When it comes to promoting engagement and sustained performance, the research shows that boys are more dependent on these student-teacher relationships than girls.
  • An important question in the wake of COVID is how technology can enrich these relationships and contribute to learning in remote and hybrid settings?
  • Jodl sees this "disruption" as an opportunity for all parties involved—from teachers and parents to policy makers—to come together and make this new form of learning work.

This video is part of Z 17 Collective's Future of Learning series, which asks education thought leaders what learning can and should look like in the midst and wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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