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Viewpoint: Successful living and learning are based on relationships

Keith Jacobus is the District 833 superintendent

As the summer vacation winds down for our students, the excitement of a new year comes, in part, from the opportunity for students to rekindle friendships and meet new friends. We know the social aspect of school can sometimes overshadow the academic focus, but we falsely assume the importance of friends is a common characteristic of immaturity, and something we put behind ourselves when we become adults. Certainly, we learn to overcome the desire to be popular as a status symbol. However, there is an important correlation between friends and relationships, and our overall happiness and the achievement of our goals.

There is a considerable amount of research on longevity that points to the importance throughout our lives of developing and fostering strong positive relationships. People who tend to live longer and more productive lives have a few things in common, but one of the most important is having close friends and family members. We are social beings and we thrive in social settings and groups. We need social interaction, friendships and a sense of belonging to help us maintain positive emotional health, but also to enhance our physical health as well.

As a school district, we are striving to build strong relationships with our students in the classroom, and with our community. We know that only with strong partnerships with our community, will we be able to create the proper learning environment and provide opportunities and an educational system where all students can succeed.

Initially, new relationships are based on commonalities between individuals or groups. Students are assigned to groups based on their age or grade level. They will be learning similar material and experiencing a similar school day and year. If students choose to participate in an extracurricular activity they meet other students with the same interest.

As a school system, we share many common goals with our community. We want all kids to succeed and be provided a high-quality education. These similarities between individuals and communities are important early on in the relationship, but similarities are not enough to create the strong, long-lasting relationships that add to a long and productive life and the betterment of a school system. Our differences, and how they capture our imaginations by helping us to see the world through new eyes, as we grow and refine our thinking, is what cements our relationships into long lasting partnerships. These relationships can increase our overall individual health and longevity, as well as our institutional health and success.

We have many ways we are working to bring community members into our system as partners and advisors. We know that, collectively, we are wiser and more productive than when we work independently. "Together we are SoWashCo" is more than a phrase, it is a commitment and a call to action. We are all working for the same goals. Each of us may have a different perspective on how to reach those goals, and our differences need to be celebrated and cultivated. The diversity of thinking is the key to bringing us closer together as a community. In our classrooms, we are striving to build productive and positive relationships through working to gain a deep understanding of our students' individual differences. Finding what we have in common is the first step. Understanding and capitalizing on our differences help us turn a collection of individuals into a cohesive team...Together we are SoWashCo!

A new school year brings new opportunities for students. It will bring new challenges, new successes and, we hope, a new sense of wonderment and excitement about their future. We know our kids cannot succeed at their highest level intellectually unless they are both physically and emotionally healthy. We will be working hard to provide opportunities and strategies to enhance our students physical and emotional wellbeing. But we will not be able to reach our goals alone. We also need to be working hard to create and maintain strong relationships with our community. I hope you will join me in building these relationships and community partnerships to strengthen our school community for all our kids. After all, it may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to educate one.

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