Kimberly Rodriguez Cano

Kimberly Rodriguez Cano, a consultant with over thirty years’ experience, is a former transition specialist, special education coordinator, professional development director, and school improvement specialist for the Florida Department of Education, supporting educators in that state and across the United States.

Community and Relationships: Creating Strategic Support Systems

“Happily ever after isn’t a destination, it’s a daily commitment.”
—Karen Finn

I am often asked “What is the key to improving schools” or “Why are we not seeing the greater results in student performance?” The answers to these questions are simple, but the work is hard. 

I can relate this to relationships—simple to create, but hard to maintain (happily). Relationships can be described as how people behave or feel towards each other. Schools can define themselves as “micro-communities” where relationships with students, families, and each other must rapidly develop.  

Students have not only relationships with their peers and teachers, but relationships with their families and community. How students engage in learning at school can be directly related to their “outside” relationships. These of which, educators have no control.

Educational researcher John Hattie developed a way of synthesizing various influences in different meta-analyses according to their effect size, or what works best in education.  According to Hattie, educators can make a positive impact on student achievement despite the “outside” student community relationships. In answering the often-asked questions, I typically will provide the following top three from Hattie’s list. 

All of the following, we as educators do have control over:

1.  Teacher Estimate of Achievement: “It is teachers who have created positive teacher-student relationships that are more likely to have the above average effects on student achievement.”

2.  Collective Teacher Efficacy: “The collective self-perception that teachers in a given school make an educational difference to their students over and above the educational impact of their homes and communities.” 

3.  Student Self-Assessment: “Students are the most accurate when predicting how they will perform. Teachers can push a learner to exceed these expectations thus the student then gains confidence in his/her learning ability.”

It is the relationships—how we behave and feel towards each student and our fellow educators is the key to unlocking school improvement efforts. Positive relationships have proven results in student performance. Schools need to commit to strategically creating support systems to ensure our practices and policies are aligned to student learning, thus grounded in positive school community relationships.  

We must have an unwavering commitment to ensure that each student will learn at their greatest potential. We must provide support, both academically socio-emotionally, to guarantee that students can successfully engage in the learning environment. We must sustain a stable and consistent school community that believes in all students. We must continue to invest in our educators’ learning by providing expertise and resources that meet the unique needs of the students they serve. This is the community we must build.  

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. London: Routledge.

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