Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Slice of Life: Relationships Matter, Even in High School

On Tuesdays, the writing community at Two Writing Teachers hosts the Slice of Life. Everyone is welcome to join in by writing, commenting, or just reading slices from around the world!

I didn't mean to take the WHOLE month of August off from blogging (blush), but sometimes time goes by faster than I expect, and sometimes life gets in the way of writing (sigh). In any case, if you're reading this, thanks. Thanks for coming back. Thanks for welcoming me back into the slicing fold. 

School started last week for me and yesterday for my daughters. In my home base school, I watched students enter the building with their hair slicked back, their sneakers (some new) carefully tied, their backpacks full of the sharpened pencils and crisp new folders to start the year. In classes, teachers greeted them by name with special handshakes and smiles. Most teachers held morning meetings with welcoming activities that they selected carefully to be the perfect getting to know each other activities for this special morning. By the end of the day, almost every student in almost every classroom felt welcomed, like a blossoming member of a community, and ready to return on the following day. Ahhh. Elementary school. 

I have to say, though, that my high school girls and my middle school girl were just as prepped and ready for school as those elementary schools kiddos--maybe even more so. They woke up early, which was a big effort for them. They completed all of their summer work, and some of those packets were REALLY big, and they hit Staples hard for school supplies. They worked hard on their outfits and their hair, and in many ways, they were just as anxious about the first day as the elementary students I watched enter my school building. 

Three of my four daughters. (The oldest has left for college.)

But here's where their experience gets different, and I wish it didn't. Their teachers didn't ask them how their summer was. There were no team-building activities, no community work, no pauses in the action to just check in on each other. Maybe those activities will happen as the year goes on, but there's only one first day of school. My girls loved seeing their friends, and they posted many pictures of the first day in the parking lot and even in the hallways, but the excitement was not at all centered on teachers or learning. 

Relationships matter so much. I know that in this community I am preaching to the choir, and I know that most of the SOL friends I have are elementary oriented. I just wish that we could have more high school teachers understand the importance of relationships during the fragile teenage year. Those high school teachers have so much power to impact lives in positive ways. Those high school students crave relationships with adults, just as they did in elementary school. Those relationships just seem so much tougher to come by.

I wish all of you happy first weeks of school that build the foundations for relationships, risk-taking, and powerful learning throughout the year.

Happy Writing,


  1. Yup, that's what it's all about. And I hope that Larkin is well.

  2. Yup, that's what it's all about. And I hope that Larkin is well.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. It makes me sad there's no time spent building community. I always found I got more out of classes where the teacher or professor allowed us to get to know one another in the first week of school. {sigh.}

  5. You make such a great point! I've been in school a month (yes....a month) already, and I've seen teachers devoted to laying that foundation of community. So important!

  6. First of all, look at your beautiful daughters! And one away at college! Oh my! You are so blessed Melanie! What a family! And yes, you are so right ... it saddens my heart to hear that the first day of school back isn't focused on what IS most important: the students, no matter the age. Best of luck to you all as the year goes on -- there is always room for improvement, right? :)

  7. Melanie - welcome back! I've been gone, too, and it feels good to be Slicing again. Your daughters are stunning!

    I wish you could come visit my new school district during the first week of school. It's a model that should be replicated in every school across the country, high school included. No academics. None. Just community and team building and forming relationships. That's it. Isn't that beautiful??

    Our junior high has a "Wall of Students." It has a picture of every student in the building. As a teacher forms a special connection or relationship with a student, they remove their picture. As the year continues, the staff looks at any pictures still remaining because they know those students still need to bond or connect with a teacher. Isn't that amazing?

  8. My grandson just started high school & luckily for him he's in the marching band/orchestra-lots of community there. As for the rest, he has so little to say, makes me sad. Former students talk of music & drama, & debate or speech, but little else too. I wish they all had teachers like Deb Day. Her room just created a FB page to share what they were doing-& that's high school! Your daughters look ready to take on many challenges, so tell them to learn outside the box. Maybe it'll make a difference. Have a lovely start yourself, Melanie.

  9. I love seeing this picture of your girls. Wow! They shine! My daughters were very blessed (and we paid a high price) to go to a small private high school. It was like camp with the classrooms in old sugar shacks from a sugarcane plantation. Academics were rigorous but so was relationship building. I do wish the public high schools could understand this important aspect of education. Glad you are back to slicing.

  10. Your blog has confirmed that I am on the right track when I am planning team activities for my middle and high school students!! If there isn't a common core standard for that, I will just have to make one! Wishing you and your girls a wonderful new school year!