TITLE: The Relationship at the Center of the Classroom AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: March 25, 2012 11:18 AM DESC: ----- BODY: Sometimes, people think that the most important relationship in a classroom is the one between the student and the teacher. But it's not. The most important relationship in a classroom is the one between the student and the ideas that make up the course. The teacher's job isn't to tell the student what to think. It is more the role of a matchmaker: to introduce the student to the ideas and to stir up interest. To stoke the fire and keep it burning when interest wanes. And to throw a log on the fire occasionally so that the young love can grow bigger and stronger. The center of it all is the relationship between the student and the ideas, the discipline. The teacher's most important lasting effect is in the strength of that relationship. Students who don't understand this never seem to realize that it is their work and their interest that make learning possible. Ultimately, students make a course successful, or not. Teachers who don't understand this, or who forget over the course of a career, are easily disillusioned. Sometimes they think their most important job is to relay more knowledge to their students. It's usually more important to provoke the students to engage a few powerful ideas and let them seek out what they need when they need it. Other times, teachers come almost to depend on their relationship with the students. They feel empty when the connection seems lacking. In most such cases, the best way to solve that problem isn't to work on the teacher-student connection, but to work on the connection between students and ideas. Ironically, the best way to improve that connection is often for teachers to reinvigorate their interest and passion in the ideas they think about and teach. Occasionally something more happens. Teachers and students become fellow travelers on a journey, and that fellowship can outlast a single course or a four-year program of study. Sometimes, lifelong friendships develop. But that relationship is distinct from what happens between student, teacher, and ideas. -----