Positive relationships necessary for growth


Junior Ana Triantafilou collaborates with math teacher Allison Klein.

In last year’s stakeholders survey, 30 percent of students indicated that adults in the building do not care about them as people. Principal Samuel Wynkoop has pledged himself to opening communication and fostering positive relationships between teachers and students in an effort to reduce this number.

Music teacher Christina Senita has already started to emphasize the importance of expressing these affirmative relationships with students.

“Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Senita said, citing a renowned John Maxwell quote.

According to a study conducted by a team of Cambridge University researchers, students who engage in positive relationships with their teachers are 18 percent more prosocial (10 percent more up to two years later) than students with adverse relationship.

Social studies teacher Kendra Swam reflects on her own unique definition of a positive relationship.

“[A positive relationship] should have open communication, and be dedicated to the learning process while also being open to constructive communication,” Swam said. “It needs a shared vision and goal as to what the classroom should look like.”

There are various ways to promote these essential relationships in the classroom, especially when acknowledging that small acts can go a long way.

Swam encourages optimistic thinking and open comunication between teachers and students by providing students with class time to construct letters of gratitude.

“[Just by] being interested in the subject matter as a teacher and demonstrating that enthusiasm and passion for the subject matter… that can inspire students to be a little bit more motivated and focused,” Swam said.

Senior Reiley Hartmueller has noticed the benefits of positivity in classrooms.

“Teachers show they are actually people, outside of just being a robot,” Hartmueller said. “It is better to actually be in the class when you can laugh and interact with the teacher.”

Senita focuses on getting to know her students as individuals and allowing time for relaxation and conversation.

“If my main priority was perfection in a concert, then I’d lose sight of who my students are as artists. It’s about who they become as a person and what the teacher can help them accomplish,” she said.

Both Senita and Swam have witnessed positive thinking, communication or growth mindsets having a favorable effect in their classrooms.

“I tell my students, ‘you are my people and I am yours.’ I want my students to know that they always have someone accepting them in their corner,” said Senita.

Social studies teacher Phil Bressler took it one step further, co-founding the Dulaney Gratitude Facebook page with alumni Stephanie Rountree in 2015. With over 1,000 members, Bressler never expected the page to evolve to what it is today.

“It was a way to get everyone thinking more positive,” Bressler said.