Why are Teacher Student Relationships Important?

SuAnnBy SuAnn Davis

Sunrise RTC

Why are Teacher Student Relationships Important? Because:

  • “Great teachers focus not on compliance, but on connections and relationships.” PJ Caposey
  • “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” James Comer
  • “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt

These are just a few of the many quotes you can find about the correlation between teaching and forming relationships with students. Before you can reach a student, or really anyone, you need to show that person you care about his or her needs. On my very first day of teaching, first-period, I had a conflict with a student.

We’ll call her Rae. Rae had her nose pierced, which was against school dress code. We had just been told we had to enforce said dress code, and I asked her to remove it.

Her response was “With all due respect, why?” I only had the answer, “it’s in the rules.”

Which, let’s face it, isn’t really an answer.

Flash forward a few months. Same girl, same issue.

This time, when I asked her to remove her piercing, she complied immediately. What was the difference? The difference was, over the months in between, I spent time with her.

I learned her story. I learned about her love of reading and singing. I learned about her mother’s death and how she felt about that. I cared about her, not as a student, but as a person. It was her knowing that I cared about what happened to her. Because I cared about her, she did very well in school. She has since graduated from college, and she sent me a nice letter thanking me for caring about her.

Now I don’t tell this story to talk myself up, but to exemplify the idea that relationships can help students grow and learn. My favorite aspect of working at Sunrise is the opportunity I have to form lasting relationships with the girls I teach, much like the relationship I have with Rae.

We create several opportunities to build those relationships. Last week, for example, we went camping with the Sunrise girls. It was an activity I had looked forward to all year.

It was a chance to hang out with some of the girls, play games, go hiking, and just have experiences together to get to know each other better. It was a chance for them to see the teachers and therapists in a different setting, and a time for us to grow closer.

Along with just hanging out, being together, it is also a good time for us to teach them some interesting tidbits that are unique to Southern Utah. For example, two teachers took a group of girls on a hike to see some of the petroglyphs near Snow Canyon State Park.

The girls were able to not only experience hiking in an absolutely gorgeous setting with incredible views but also learned a bit about the previous civilizations that were in the area and appreciate the beauty they left behind. For another outing, two more teachers took a group of girls to the Mountain Meadow Massacre National Historical site where we taught the girls about the events leading up to the conflict and how the conflict was then covered up. While it is a dark stain on Utah’s history, it is important to learn from it and show that we still honor the lives that were lost. While there, we paid tribute by leaving a small stone to honor the lives of those lost and to show that we would not forget them. We also took the opportunity to visit some lava tubes, and using glow sticks, played hide and seek with the girls. After which we did a bit of service by cleaning up some of the litter that other groups had left behind. This proved to be the most requested outing of the trip.

All of these experiences, the different outing, the hiking, and the learning about Southern Utah, were great fun.

It was a great chance for the girls to see us in a less formal setting, and for us to see them in a different setting. It helped us get to know each other, and appreciate each other, which in the end, helps with a much larger goal: to form lasting relationships and help heal families.

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Nature and nurture: promoting an optimal healing environment

By Jane Mahoney, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC

NatureAn age-old debate continues to thrive in science and in society about the cause of mental illness. In some circles this is known as the nature-nurture debate.

Nature refers to the biological makeup of an individual.

Today the focus is on the genetic, cellular and molecular levels of the person. Nurture refers to the environmental and interpersonal factors that influence human biology and behavior.

Bridging the gap between nature and nurture

A recent article in the New York Times called attention to epigenetic research.

Epigenetics refers to the expression of the genome that does not cause a change in the DNA. It is believed that the study of epigentics bridges the gap between nature and nurture. This area of research has much to offer the field of mental health, as those of us who are dedicated to the care of persons with mental illness strive to identify more effective interventions to improve the lives of those who suffer with mental disorders.

When we consider the role of the environment on gene expression, it seems consideration would be given not only to the family and social environment in which patients live but also to the healing capacity of the environment in which patients receive care.

Creating healing environments

Nurses at The Menninger Clinic have been promoting the idea of an optimal healing environment in which nurses and other clinicians create an atmosphere of healing places and spaces that:

  • promote awareness and positive intentions;
  • personal wholeness;
  • collaborative medicine;
  • healthy lifestyles; and
  • healing relationships.

The idea of an optimal healing environment was first developed by the Samueli Institute as a framework for all of healthcare. An optimal healing environment is one in which the physical environment that promotes the biological, psychological and social experiences of calm, comfort, and support is experienced by all people within the environment.

Such an environment calls for strong relationship-centered care in patient: clinician and clinician: clinician relationships that are built on respect and appreciation.

What would happen if there was an ethical mandate to promote an optimal healing environment in mental healthcare? Is it possible that such an environment would maximize biological and psychological interventions and ultimately improve the quality of care for the mentally ill?


Posted in Behaviors, Biology, Healing, Horizon Family Solutions, Mental health, The Menninger Clinic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

27 is the new 18 year old and what to do about it


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