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Blog: Friday, March 1st, 2019

Madeline Knew Her Stuff

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. For those of us who have been in education for a long time, this is a familiar adage that has stood the test of time. When I first heard it over thirty years ago, it was part of a speech that my then superintendent was making to the class of new teachers hired into his district. He attributed it to Madeline Hunter, who as most of us know, was the godmother of educational theory and practice (I date myself now when I mention her name to new teachers, who have no idea who she is). Nonetheless, when you mentioned her name it meant something, so the idea of having positive relationships was instilled all our lives, even though it was intuitive.

When I moved to Abbotsford some ten years later, I worked for an amazing superintendent, a powerhouse in the staff development world, and one of the things he often said in a preface to his sessions with his administrators was “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  He too would attribute this to Madeline Hunter (I began to wonder if this was something they taught in superintendent school). At the time the district was deeply committed to cooperative learning, but the importance of relationships shone through no less. The impact of collaborative learning was amplified by positive relationships between teacher and student as well as among students.

Fast forward to the present day when I was recently in attendance at Shared Learning 2019 with our elementary teachers learning about the Daily 5 and Café. Before taking participants into the research and pedagogy behind their approach, she talked about the importance of relationships. Though she did not attribute it to Madeline, she did repeat the familiar phrase “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” She went on to encourage the teachers in the audience to “Start each day with amnesia.”  That is, forget the negative things kids may have done the previous day and to start each morning with a warm heart.  Sage advice. She asked everyone in the room if they could list all the students in their class, and write down five pieces of personal information about each of them. I would imagine that most, if not all, of the teachers there could do it, but it was a powerful reminder of the importance of relationships as part of the learning experience.

You will all know by now that British Columbia has taken a bold step in response to the call to modernize our education system. We have a competency-based curriculum driven by core competencies in critical thinking, creativity, communication, and personal identity. There are fewer outcomes, and abundant opportunities for teachers to deeply engage students in their inquiry. Learning is more experiential, and students are afforded the time to learn in depth about areas of passion. Students can demonstrate their understanding and capabilities in a myriad of ways. Our report cards and digital tools provide parents and students with unprecedented information about how children are learning and what they can do to improve it. It is a grand time for education in our province.

Having said that, this means little if foundational relationships do not drive it. No matter how progressive the pedagogy, what will always hold true is that learning is fundamentally an emotional as well as intellectual endeavour. Relationships help students regulate and feel safe to take learning risks. They are the playing field on which their learning takes place. Despite the pedagogical improvements we have realized in the last forty years, it seems that Madeline knew a thing or two that would stand the test of time.

By Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.