The other night, I attended a ceremony honoring a neighboring city’s eighth grade student wrestlers, including my grandson.
The veteran high school coach was the guest speaker and made a big pitch to the students to enroll in the local high school and continue wrestling. He trotted out seniors from his team who’d excelled not only in wrestling but in the classroom. Their team, he said, was number two academically in the state and had won a number of regional and state wrestling competitions as well.
He was a passionate guy and ended his talk by stating, “I may not be the greatest coach in the world, but nobody will care about your kids as much as I do.”
In fact, I’m pretty sure he must be a really good coach. And an important part of what makes him so effective is how much he invests in building strong relationships with students.
In my own teaching life, I’ve certainly found this to be true. How do I know? Students actually tell me it makes a difference. One wrote about my teaching this fall: “I’ve never met another professor who cares so strongly for all of the students in a class… Without her positive attitude and approach to her critiques of papers, I don’t think I would be writing as well as I could.”
Interestingly, now that I’m doing research for a keynote presentation on the significance of STR (Student-Teacher Relationships) for an upcoming faculty conference, I’m discovering that the research is very consistent with my own experiences. Study after study indicates college students are less likely to drop out and more likely to perform to the best of their abilities when they have a positive relationship with faculty.
An elderly wise woman at my church puts it this way: “Nobody cares about how much you know until they know how much you care.” As a university instructor, I’ve found that to be great advice.
Apparently, it also works really well for wrestling coaches.