The Importance of Our Work – Building Relationships

          I just read one of more disturbing things I have read in a long while.  I first heard it on the radio yesterday but had to verify it first.  In an opinion poll completed by YouGov, 20% of millennials say that they have no friends in real life, 27% say that they have no close friends.  The report is titled “Millennials are the Loneliest Generation”.  The full research methodology is on the site and appears to be well done, however, this is the first time I have reviewed research on YouGov so further review would be necessary.

          If this research is accurate, it has a significant impact on how we view our role as educators, educational leaders, mentors, students supervisors, or adults who work with students.  We have observed over time research that suggests that social media impacts relationships and personal connection.  If this research follows that trend, it suggests that those using social media are not building personal relationships outside of the internet.  We should be worried.

          This school year is about to begin or has already started for some educators.  As educational leaders, we need to be aware of this type of data.  How well are our students connecting with each other?  What impact does electronic devices and social media have on your students?  Are your students building positive, healthy relationships with each other?  Do staff members build positive, healthy relationships with students?  Do adults model healthy relationships to students?

          We are in a position to have the greatest impact on these numbers.  We can build programming into our schools to help students develop relationships.  We can demonstrate and practice healthy communication within the school.  We can move from the use of electronics to personal contact and discussion.  If healthy students and healthy adults are a goal, we must do more than just teach content.

          As you enter your school year, I encourage you to consider the information from this report.  If 20% of millennials feel like they do not have friends, how many more of our students might feel the same, or worse?  How can you make small shifts to your school year to have a greater impact on the mental wellness of students?   What time can you trade from academics or help build well rounded, resilient men and women? 

          This piece of research gave me shudders just thinking about the implications of it.  Educating students is only part of our job. Developing and guiding students to become healthy, mentally strong young adults is in many ways more important. One of my goals this year is to ensure I am doing all I can to help students build positive relationships with each other and adults in the time we work with them.  What is your goal for the year?  I look forward to your responses in the comments section.

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