The Importance of Reciprocated Relationships for Teaching and Learning

I am sitting at my desk, and I notice an email from a name I seem to know, but the message still caught me off guard.

Earlier this year, I was asked to speak to a small group of students to give them some podcasting tips, and one of the students noticed my basketball shoes in the background of my office.  The conversation on podcasting quickly turned into a conversation on our favorite Kobe shoes and basketball stories. The dialogue went back and forth between podcasting and personal stories, and it went long past the scheduled 30 minutes. 

Here is part of the message I received from the student:


“Thank you for you time that day and helping me understand that it’s can be hard to accomplish what you want but you could never accomplish anything if you never try. Once again thank your for the guidance and knowledge. Hope all is well and hopefully we speak again soon!”


This is from a student I met once, and we talked for about 60 minutes. I felt I made an impact not because of my knowledge of podcasting (which is minimal!) but because of the personal connection we made that day.  

I deliberately chose the word “we” instead of “I” in that last sentence because relationships are reciprocated. We often talk about getting to know our students, which is important, but it is also imperative they learn about us. 

When I do virtual events, I have pictures of my kids, a display of basketball shoes, and some vinyl records on display. These always lead to conversations that momentarily might distract from the learning, but more often than not, eventually deepen it.  My Instagram seems to be a mix of learning, basketball shoes, health and fitness tips, with a barrage of baby and dog pictures. In my weekly email (sign up here!), I focus on sharing three elements; something professional (my learning), something profound (learning from someone else), and something personal (learning about me).  The majority of responses to these emails are from the “personal” aspect and often keep people interested in the overall message.   

These things are parts of me that I am willing to share with others, and hopefully, keep people more interested in what I have to share in these online spaces. 

In #BecauseOfATeacher (coming soon!), Livia Chan shares the following: 



Yes, we should know our students. But as we start the school year, it is just as important they learn about the adults. The best relationships have a reciprocated interest.



(P.S. I wrote a post on “4 Ideas for Building Relationships During Remote Learning” last year that would be relevant no matter if you are virtual or in-person! You can read more here.)


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