Building Teacher-Student Relationships Through Looping

When schools closed in March, it quickly became clear how important personal relationships between students and teachers are to a productive learning environment. For some schools, turning to the innovative idea of “looping,” or keeping the same teacher with a fixed class of students for two or more years, is a way to strengthen the bonds between class and teacher. Last week, KQED shared the story “How Teacher Looping Can Ease the Learning Disruptions Caused by Coronavirus,” in which writer Kara Newhouse discusses the benefits of looping.

Looping is common to almost all Waldorf schools, where class teachers stay with the same group of students through the grades, in some cases from 1st through 8th. In fact, looping was incorporated into the very first Waldorf school, which opened over 100 years ago in Germany. At Marin Waldorf School, the special relationship between each class is fortified by their growing relationship with the class teacher. (A case in point, the warmth exuding from our 8th grade teacher Ms. Percey in the picture above, as she speaks to her class at our outdoor/socially distant graduation for the class of 2020. Ms. Percey had been with this class in grades 5-8, and she’ll be starting a new loop as the 5th grade class teacher in 2020-2021!)

Ms. Weger took the class of 2019 from 5th grade to 8th grade. In the fall of that same year, she started first grade with a new class of students whom she’ll be teaching in second grade this coming fall.

While recent school closures may have brought the teacher-student relationship into the spotlight, there is plenty of research to suggest that looping is beneficial to students in any environment. In the article “In the Loop,” published by the AASA, The School Superintendents Association, the authors explain, “Schools that have effectively implemented the looping structure point to the following benefits: improved relationships among students and between teachers and students, more efficient instruction, higher attendance rates, reduced student retentions, fewer referrals of students to special education programs and improved student discipline.”

Many experts are citing the importance of significant relationships in young people’s lives. As James P. Comer, who runs the School Development Program at Yale University, puts it: “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” – JIM GRANT, IRV RICHARDSON & CHAR FORSTEN,
The School Superintendents Association Schools

There are similar takeaways in this piece, “Looping Leads to Long-Term Connections with Students,” at Edutopia, which credits Rudolf Steiner as the probable originator of the idea. “People are hardwired for long-term relationships,” the authors writer, “and emotional growth isn’t optimally possible without a permanent, supportive presence.”

We’ll be talking more about looping this week, as well as the other ways Waldorf education is adapting to a new educational environment… so please check back for more!

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