Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Importance of Building Relationships

 I will admit that I had to read chapters 4 and 5 a few times each. There is so much information in both of them. However, I see one reoccurring theme through out them both. There is a direct correlation between the success of a student and the positive relationships he or she develops within the community.

Although I know that this is true for all students, I do feel that it is particularly important for students from poor urban communities.Nakkula p.66 explains how students, "simply feel depleted by the relentless challenges of urban poverty."

A few years back I had a student. CP was a very shy girl. She really didn't have any friends. Her grades were fair to poor. She was the student who came into your class and did her very best not to get noticed. Her younger brother on the other hand was in trouble constantly. He was suspended on a regular basis. They were also both in truancy court because of frequent absences. Their mom was a drug addict and their father was in jail. One day I noticed bruises on CP's leg. I asked her how she got the bruises and she told me that she got them from dance. I started to keep an eye on CP. I started a little homework club and asked her to join. She started to stay the days that she didn't have dance. One day CP came to school and told me that her mom's boyfriend was abusing her and her brother. The people in my school immediately took action. The team work that is described through out chapter four was in my opinion what saved CP.

That same year, CP's mom died. Our principal, social workers, and teachers worked very hard to place CP and her brother in their grandmothers' care. We met with the truancy judge and informed her of the home situation. Sullivan emphasizs the connection between school environment and students who have tough home lives. He states that "Schooling provides the best opportunities for healing the warps of childhood." This could not be more true in this case. CP went on to high school. She came to Bain, (because of my principal) every week to my class after school for extra help and to talk. Her dance teacher also gave her a job after school at the dance studio. Things were
still very bad at home. During CP's senior year, the Truancy Judge place CP in a foster home. She actually collaborated with the dance teacher to find her a home within the dance community!!

Today CP has graduated from high school, the first one in her family to do so. She still lives with that family and she is going to a technical to become a medical technician. Dance continues to be a big part of her life an CP is now a paid teacher at the dance studio. Nakkula p.83 affirms Sullivan when he writes " We all carry the possibility of transcending or substantially modifying our family histories through extrafamilial relationships, starting with those forged at school with teachers and peers." The strong relationships which CP has forged throughout has helped to change the direction that her life was going in.



  1. Mary,
    I think your story completely goes along with what Sullivan was saying in Chapter 5. The school environment is what saved CP from a even more terrible situations. Your stories of helping the kids in your school is inspiring to me, but I struggle with the notion that I can't help them all. How do I pick and choose which ones need my help the most? In some cases this is an easy decision, but in others, I think its more difficult. I do feel, however, that having a school environment that is supportive of all students is a step in the right direction.

  2. Allie,
    I know what you mean. I think that as teachers we all struggle with this. There are so many kids and so little time. Also, sometimes you try so hard with a kid and they refuse the help. That is exactly what happened with CPs' brother. He has been in trouble with the law and in and out of jail. There are too many of those stories.