The Power of Positive Relationships

Posted by AVID Center on 5/22/2018

martha Written by Martha Martín Pérez

I have been in the classroom in a variety of capacities for over two decades, and I can attest that positive relationships and a supportive environment lead to student success. Our shared space needs to foster academic risks, inspire leadership, conquer self-doubt, make the invisible visible, and encourage accountability. This—coupled with access to rigorous curriculum, responsive scaffolds, and high expectations within our AVID Excel community, la familia—allows our students to soar.

High-fives, fist-bumps, the melody of scholars’ names as they step into the classroom, and the sounds of unzipping backpacks, flapping binders, zipping pencil bags, and quietly clicking laptop keys fill the room as all eyes turn to the board for bell work. The teacher “hummingbirds” around to get firsthand, formative information to begin learning time. The classroom becomes a symphony of beautiful academic language, followed by choreographed language coaching from the teacher. This is the flow of la familia going strong.

Creating la familia in the classroom does not happen overnight; it takes continuous and intentional effort to create and sustain relationships between scholars, educators, parents, and community. AVID Excel is unlike any other framework because it requires all stakeholders to “walk the walk” to create systemic change. The heavy lifting falls to teachers, who thoughtfully plan lessons with academic language scripts, sentence frames, structured oral language, and listening. Carefully designed lessons have the power to encourage even our most reserved scholars to communicate academically with their peers and to achieve at the highest level. In July 2017, the California Department of Education released the California English Learner Roadmap, which confirms language is foundational to learning and development, and in Visible Learning, John Hattie demonstrates that teacher-student relationships are one of the most effective influences on student achievement. AVID Excel provides a strong language development curriculum combined with a positive philosophical and physical space.

When I first stepped into my fifth-grade dual immersion classroom at the beginning of the school year, I did not know what to expect for my 31 fifth graders. As I introduced language coaching, I noticed a profound positive effect on my students’ ability to speak and write as scholars. I was intentional and transparent as I created a safe learning space incorporating bell work, academic word walls, Scholar Groups, Socratic Seminars, and Philosophical Chairs. Peers create their own accountability through rehearsal and revision with A/B partners. AWL cards sit within reach and are incorporated in text analysis, infographic analysis, math reasoning, quickwrites, essays, and conversations in Spanish and English to integrate heritage language. How is this possible? It is achieved through the powerful flow of familia.

My scholars refer to their peers as “classroom brother” and “classroom sister.” In a recent writing piece, one of my students stated, “I am a bilingual fifth grader. In fact, I am an AVID scholar that has a classroom family and a blood family.” That student started the school year two years behind grade level in reading and math, with behavior referrals and traumatic experiences at home. Because of our learning space, she now applies her learning at grade level and has flourished into a confident, joyful leader! That is the power behind fostering la familia.

As an educator and student advocate, I am in awe of my scholars’ dynamic “heartwork” and vivacity. Equally important, now that we are at the end of the year, I invite you to rest, rejuvenate, and get ready for our incoming AVID Excel familia.

Martha Martín Pérez, M.Ed., is a dual immersion educator, advocate, doctoral program student, AVID Excel Support Provider, AVID National staff developer for Academic Language and Literacy, and ACSA Women in Educational Leadership Collaborative cohort.