Authentic Relationships: Making Minds Stronger

Authentic Relationships: Making Minds Stronger
Posted on 12/09/2019
From Mrs. Deb Haag, Mexico Middle School Principal

At Mexico Public Schools relationships are the foundation of our work.  Relationships are also critical to Mexico Middle School as it is the first step in achieving our mission, Making Minds Stronger.  As students transition from elementary to middle school, finding that they have more adults in their world has its pros and cons.  Having five to seven different teachers in a day is a big change from having one or two teachers almost all day the year before.  At MMS, we try to live by the notion of Maslow before Blooms, which means that we must meet the safety and belongingness needs of students before we can teach them to learn and to apply their learning. That belief means we must focus on authentic relationships.  

Last year, we started having conversations about what it means to have an authentic relationship with our students.  We challenged ourselves to ask, “Do know what a student does when they are not with us at night and on the weekend? Do we understand students’ values and what they think is important?” We challenged each other to dig deeper. Teacher teams talked about every student on their team to determine which students they felt they shared an authentic relationship with.

MMS also determined that an authentic relationship needs to be reciprocal.  It was not good enough for us to state that we had a good relationship with a student.  The student had to confirm it.  Grade level teams have spent the last two years developing and giving surveys that start to dig into this work. These surveys ask which adults they have good relationships with in the school.  They even go so far as asking which adults in the school they would like better relationships and something they would like the adults to know about them. 

The information gleaned from these surveys is priceless.  Teams are able to go through and compare their thoughts with what our students thought. The good news was that many students felt very connected to the same teachers that felt connected with them.  There were also many kids that felt they had connections with teachers that the surprised the teachers.  While the number was small, the process also revealed that we had students who didn’t feel they had authentic relationships with the adults in our building.  That made us take pause and become very purposeful in how we approached those students.  An increased effort is made to ensure those students have a go-to adult in the building and that they are active participants in ensuring and understanding how to build a relationship. 

The process was so valuable that we are in our second year of surveys and checking our list twice to make sure our students feel like they belong.  Each time we discover more about our students and how we can help them be successful.  Authentic relationships are at the heart of that work and challenging each of us to rise to that level with the students of MMS is the foundation of our mission, Making Minds Stronger!