First, a negative correlation was discovered between moral behavior and grades. Students who were most likely to compromise their ethics were more likely to have higher grades than those who held to more rigid ethical values. Though the study only reveals correlation and not causes, the researchers suspected that the high emphasis on rewards for high academics at the schools led some students to compromise their ethics to receive the awards. This suggests that we should be careful to instill in students both a hunger for quality work and also an intrinsic rationale for achieving these goals.
What was less surprising, and what confirms what we already know in our hearts, was the positive correlation between students’ perception of connectedness at school and their academic performance. Those students who felt a sense of belonging and personal connection with their teachers put more emphasis into academic goals.
This verifies that if we want to teach the head, we must first reach the heart. We must care more about who we teach than what we teach. That is not to say that what we teach is not important; it simply affirms that we can more effectively communicate that content when students feel valued. The initial investment in the child pays greater dividends later on. It echoes the cliché, “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.”
At Mistletoe Elementary where I have worked for the last 17 years, a great emphasis is placed on community and connection. Our API is one of the highest in the county (859), and our ranking among similar schools in the state is 10/10.
A recently hired noon duty aide asked our principal, Shelle Peterson, what our discipline policy is. She replied, “Get to know the students. Then that will tell you our policy.” Her point was that if you really knew the students, you would know best how to handle any issues that might arise.
To learn more about how we connect with students, you can read a sample chapter and description of our Seven Noble Tasks program at this link.