Relationships are Foundational for Learning, CTTL Reflection, Ann Marsh Rutledge

Guest Post by Ann Marsh Rutledge, Lower School Learning Coach, MVPS

“It is NOT about being student-centered.” (Breathe.) “It is about being centered on the relationships between students and teachers.” I had gotten up from the main lecture to move around, refill my water, refocus and I ran into a colleague doing the same. We chatted quietly in the doorway about our Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning (CTTL) Academy sessions, what was going well, what wasn’t, and our takeaways so far. We began to casually assess where our individual schools are now with Mind Brain Education and other areas that we can celebrate. We wrapped up our conversation with thoughts about what comes next and the work we will undertake at our own schools. I walked back into the gym, took my seat with everyone else in the main lecture, and tuned back into MBE strategy number 11.

My mind quickly went back to the previous conversation. Relationships are foundational for learning. The relationship I had built with a respected colleague allowed us to openly share reflections on what we were learning and offer constructive feedback on the work still to come. It wasn’t forced and it wasn’t what the CTTL had planned for me but in this real-life moment of connection, and reflection, I began to sift two days worth of information and build a mental framework for organizing the learning still to come. Through the barrage of information, a few paths became clear.

Emotion and cognition are inextricably linked.

Learners must feel safe and valued as a prerequisite to learning. This makes complete sense; we, as adults, do our best work when we feel valued and valuable. It turns out that neuroscience research shows that stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions have a significant impact on cognition and executive function including working memory, attention, and self-regulation. The research on resilience is equally fascinating. The effects of major life trauma(s) can be overcome through positive lifestyle factors like healthy eating, exercise, being outside in nature, and supportive relationships.

If we truly believed and applied this research what, or who, would come first? Relationships are foundational to learning. What if the first thing on our minds as we entered our classrooms wasn’t the content on our lesson plans but the cultivation of the dynamic community of learners entrusted to our care? We must continually create, and recreate, a learning environment that nurtures relationships between all learners and invites all learners to view themselves as capable of making an impact as they follow their unique learning journey.

Learners apply knowledge to make an impact. How will apply knowledge of Mind Brain Education research to make an impact on all of our learners?


MVIFI was proud to support three Mount Vernon faculty at the inaugural Science of Teaching and School Leadership Academy at the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, Summer 2017

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