Why Relationships? A collaborative reflection by Melanie Farrell and Chris Tuttell

WHY relationships? This blog is co-written with my colleague and friend Chris Tuttell. How else could this piece be written on relationships?


Dr. Brad Gustafson writes in his book Renegade Leadership, “If pedagogy is the driver, and technology is the accelerator.  This may be true, but relationships are the runway.”


“Relationships are the runway.” Yes!  Let’s think about this….

Melanie: When I think “Relationships” I think about what that means globally.  It means my connections with my peers, students, parents and the space around me. Relationships are the building blocks to becoming better.  Without relationships growth is slow, learning is stunted, and isolation is felt.

Feeling connected to the teachers at my school are relationships I’ve had to earn.  As an Instructional Technology Facilitator, I made the mistake four years ago, thinking I could jump right in and begin changing the way teachers taught by adding technology into their curriculum and lessons.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Most teachers saw me coming and walked the other way. Not because they disliked me but because they looked at me as more work, more time having to revamp lessons, more time implementing technology they knew nothing about.. all this, all alone. During year 2, after not getting very far with the staff, I was frustrated and deflated.  How was I going to help the students #becomebetter if i can’t reach the teachers? I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.  I sat down with my principal and asked for help.  I asked for help on how to connect. “You have to go slow to go fast,” she said. Go slow? Wait? What? Slow wasn’t part of my vocabulary.  But not having any other options, I took her advice.  I slowed down on trying to bulldoze into every PLT, every PD, every Early Release.  I reached out to a few teachers who were interested in working with me.  I built a few strong connected caring relationships.  It felt good.  I felt good. They felt good. But most importantly STUDENTS were benefiting from our relationships!  It was the beginning of going slow to go fast. I realized that without the relationship there was no trust.  Without trust there was no open door into their classroom.  Without the open door, there was very little I could do to help in the learning.


Chris: When I think “Relationships” I think about what that means in terms of students.  Like Melanie, when I became and Instructional Technology Facilitator I wanted to jump in and plow ahead FOR THE KIDS. I was so focused on changing the learning landscape for every student, in every classroom and I wanted everyone to want that!  What I quickly realized was that my sense of urgency was not the same as everyone else’s.  While I have always nurtured my relationships with students, if I am being honest, I haven’t done the same with the adults in the building.  I know my problem and that is the first step, right? I am so focused on my mission that I tend to come across as a bit overzealous.  And while I know Melanie is right, I have to build trust or there is no progress.  I still struggle with the urgency part.  How do you push people to change their pedagogy or move out of their comfort zone and build the relationship at the same time?  It all moves too slow for me, I lack so much patience when it comes to kids and their learning — So how do I find the balance and build stronger relationships without compromising my ideals?

Melanie: How do we build stronger relationships?  This is a great question Chris asks.  We could probably list a dozen ways to build relationships, but I want to talk about one way that Chris has started to build relationships…through a culture of joy…this started with chocolate chips!  Listen and read here for more on #KudosKookies:

Thank you for reading and listening to a stepping stone into what building relationships mean to us.  We believe it is the first step in the journey to amazing things.  How will you build your relationships?  Start now! Let’s do it for our STUDENTS! #KidsDeserveIt

George Couros:

Innovation will never happen in education if we do not first focus on relationships.  They are the most important thing in any organization, so how we connect with others, and build culture, will always be first and foremost.  How we create a culture of yes, and focus on developing school teachers vs. classroom teachers, is crucial to success moving forward.


3 thoughts on “Why Relationships? A collaborative reflection by Melanie Farrell and Chris Tuttell

Add yours

  1. Great post ladies!

    I have been fortunate enough to build receive #kudoskookies and they bring a smile to my face each time. My goal is for my students to feel this sense of confidence and accomplishment too! I have also been fortunate to meet you Mealnie and hope to collaborate more with you in the future!

    I agree that teacher to teacher relationships are something we need to build. Many teachers are so competitive with one another that they are hurting students in the process. Why can we find a school where all doors and open and teachers are eager to share their teaching with everyone else! Chris, #kudoskookies are a great start and you have built many relationships with different staff around the building! Can’t wait to keep brainstorming!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Guys,

    And the best news about all of this is that relationships are the easy part! With a little time and attention, any relationship can be nurtured and strengthened.

    So here’s a fun question for you: Sometimes, the people who get hired into positions beyond the classroom — think principals/assistant principals — are hired because of what they know. Do you think that’s the case for ITF roles? What is done to make sure that the people who become your coworkers are good at relationships?

    I think that we need to put filters in place to prioritze relationships over knowledge in the hiring of anyone who is charged with supporting teachers.

    Enjoyed thinking with you today,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Melanie! Chris! Love all of this. You both inspire. Melanie pushes me to try new things all the time. It’s because of Chris that I have decided to hand-write #kudoskookies and present them directly to the students in front of their classmates this year, and not just do compliments thru parent emails. In fact, #kudoskookies has caused me to open my eyes even wider to look for the positives in my students. Melanie, I like the arrangement of this blog, including the podcast. You never cease to amaze me. I look forward to even more creativity from you all the time.

    It’s a right shame when educators bring their own negativity baggage and garbage into our students’ learning spaces. And it happens daily. In many schools. And it’s completely avoidable. It’s completely a choice made by educators when they enter campus. I love your positive pro-action. And the most important takeaway for me is when you said: “But most importantly STUDENTS were benefiting from our relationships!” Amen. And. Amen. Aren’t we really here for our students?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: