Woodbury Reports Archives


The Internet's leading source of information on emotional growth schools & programs

Archives Contents

Archives Home
Contents by Year
      1989 - Present
Contents by Topic
      Industry News
      Schools & Visits
      Opinions & Essays

Archives Search

The easiest way to find information is by using our search function. Just type in the words you would like to search for and you'll get a list of articles related to your topic.

Site Index

Schools & Programs
Chat Board
Online Store
Contact Us

Opinion & Essays - Jul, 2000 Issue #71 

The Importance of Relationships
Jodi Tuttle
, Head of School
Academy at Cedar Mountain
Cedar City, Utah

Nourishment of the soul begins with the building of quality relationships—the ones that connect a student to one’s self, to others, or to the world. Students today are desperate to be seen and heard. Research is beginning to show that students who feel deeply connected through relationships are more likely to survive the temptation of risk and the damage of stress. They are also more likely to discover and share the gift of themselves with the world.

We at The Academy at Cedar Mountain believe that the capacity to be in relationship to one’s inner life is paramount to the development of a sense of identity, and establishment of a healthy set of values. Students are desperately searching for answers to questions about themselves, but distractions such as television, video games, and the internet are pulling them into an almost addictive outer-directedness. The need to belong may become so strong for these adolescents that social life generally takes precedence over self-discovery. If students can find the time to connect with their essence and learn to know who they really are, they can learn to express their true self. This process helps them to nourish their human spirit. Learning to be more honest with themselves also enables them to view other people and the world around them with greater objectivity and openness.

Developing a deep connection to another leads students to authentic intimacy—a deeply caring, mutual, respectful relationship with one other person. Students who don’t develop healthy relationships with another person are more likely to seek intimacy through sexual relationships as they try to nourish the spiritual yearning for deep connection. Most teenagers don’t have the ego strength, sense of autonomy, and personal boundary setting needed for healthy, intimate relationships. Authentic, age- appropriate intimacy and bonding with an ethical adult are important ways to help ease the desperation that leads many teenagers to premature sexuality. Profound nourishment can occur when students are given the opportunity to deeply connect with an adult—a relative, a teacher or a mentor who is committed to guiding a young person in a personal way.

Students can connect meaningfully with a group or community if they are provided group situations that encourage the kind of caring respect that fosters authenticity for each individual in the group. Students who feel a sense of belonging, are loving, friendly, cooperative, and able to trust and form healthy attachments. Community building in education can be developed through a holistic approach to social and emotional learning. Adolescents need to feel a part of something larger than themselves and their families. Schools can create this opportunity by providing “morning meetings,” a weekly “council,” or other forms of “sharing circles.” Authentic expression can develop only in a climate of safety, caring, and respect. It is through cooperation, companionship, compassion, and communion that spirituality is nurtured in the classroom.

Connection to one’s lineage can begin to nourish the spirit. This can be encouraged by helping students to encounter their roots—with the ancient place of their people or with particular ancestors who influenced them. People who know something about their family history often experience great power in their sense of lineage. Students long for a sense of connection to something larger than friends and family. By connecting to their own people, or perhaps an elder if students don’t know their lineage, adolescents can find the faith and perspective that can make their daily fears, losses, and failures more bearable and more meaningful.

The experience of space and freedom afforded by a natural setting provides a deep connection to nature that calls forth awe and wonder to satisfy the spirit. Some students can develop a sense of participation in a larger realm of meaning when they experience the rhythms of nature and the eternal cycles of the day and the seasons. A feedback session around a campfire watching the setting sun or the stars aglow at night can provide opportunities for growth that are unparalleled in any other environment.

Students rarely talk about a connection to a higher power at school, though many teens wonder whether there is a higher source of power and meaning in the universe to rely on or relate to. They often perceive fear or hostility if their thoughts are expressed. Adolescents need the opportunity to discuss their curiosity about a higher power as well as to give voice to the comfort and joy they find in religion and in their relationship to God, however perceived. When students have the opportunity to speak to a respectful group about the role of faith in their lives, they feel empowered because other people have acknowledged and respected this important part of their lives.

Adolescents who feel deeply connected in one or more ways don’t need danger to feel alive or guns to feel powerful. They become comfortable with themselves and don’t wish to harm others or themselves. This deep connection to life develops both compassion and passion—for people, for students’ goals and dreams, and for life itself.

Copyright © 2000, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

Site and content copyright © 2000 by Woodbury Reports Inc. All rights reserved.