“Relational capacity” is the level of trust and safety between student and teacher. The influence a teacher has on their students is directly related to the degree of relational capacity. The teacher’s opinions, beliefs, and directives will carry more weight if the student feels safe with and trusts the teacher. Without relational capacity, a teacher has little to no influence over a student’s thoughts or actions.
Ms. Svoboda completed her first year teaching 8th grade Math at Kingsbury Middle in late May with TCAP scores thirty percentage points above last year’s scores. She began the year with 52 students in her 3 period class, struggling to find enough seats after the air conditioning unit was transformed into makeshift desks. Throughout the year, changes were made to students’ and teachers’ schedule, and Ms. Svoboda was finally able to settle into a routine. One student, Diego, captured her heart early in the year. His pint sized, middle school body could barely contain his contagious smile. His sincere desire to learn the difference between slope-intercept form and point point-slope form, among many other Pre-Algebra concepts drew him to tutoring sessions after school and eventually an opportunity to attend a local, high performing, private Christian school. Ms. Svoboda’s commitment to Diego and their relational capacity gave him the safety to venture out of the only school, community, and neighborhood he’s ever known. Diego will serve as an usher in Ms. Svoboda’s wedding this weekend. That’s the power of relational capacity.