Bentley School, Lafayette, CA

Recently, I had the honor of visiting Bentley School, a K-12 independent school in the East Bay. Bentley is a wonderful community that puts relational teaching into sharp relief. I started my visit by having an hourlong student roundtable in a recently completed centrally located dining room and commons space. Afterwards, I met with the senior administration, observed engaging classes, and proceeded with a lengthy keynote on the power of relational teaching. The reason Bentley stands out is because of its strong emphasis on community…

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Nat Damon
Derby Academy Keynote Presentation

On January 11th, I gave a special keynote presentation at Derby Academy, outside of Boston, MA. I taught middle school English at Derby during my formative years between 1994-2000. This school was a model of strong culture, and it remains so today. Current faculty, several former colleagues, and former students of mine also attended this talk about relational teaching. It was an incredibly powerful lesson on the continued importance of school community and a teacher’s lasting legacy—in my case, two decades after leaving for California!

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Nat Damon
Schools That Change Lives

Another school I spent significant time at while in Boston last week is Epiphany School in Dorchester, MA. Founded 21 years ago by a visionary Episcopal priest, this school serves students in grades 5 – 8 who are from the neighboring communities. Its motto is “never give up on a child” and Epiphany lives this through 12-hour days that include all three meals, afterschool electives, study halls and living facilities for teachers. This is a fully no-pay school funded entirely through grants and private contributions. The model works because its teachers are encouraged to forge strong relationships that extend way outside the classroom. They are life-changers…”The Ones” for their students and for each other.

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Nat Damon
Salons

This autumn, in Los Angeles, several salon-style evening events were held that captured the significance of relationships. These events were gatherings of 12-15 people centered around thoughtful discussions of the state of education today and the timeless importance of the human factor in teaching and learning. Attendees were gathered from all backgrounds and professions, and for this reason dialogue encouraged diverse perspectives that all participants learned from. The salon-style format is reflected in the relational classroom, as it involves a commitment to listening and is built on a foundation of trust. We hope to hold many more salons in the future because they are shared experiences that provide growth through reflection and contribution.

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Nat Damon
Book Events

Time to Teach: Time to Reach...Time to Read! This summer was packed with book readings celebrating the publication of Time to Teach: Time to Reach—Expert Teachers Give Voice to the Power of Relational Teaching. Events were held in Los Angeles, Boston, Cambridge, Connecticut, and London at homes and public venues. These events were focused gatherings for educators, parents, and all other education allies.  

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Nat Damon
Fostering Inclusion

Echo Horizon School in Culver City is a gem of an elementary school that communicates community from the moment one arrives on campus. The traditional one-building schoolhouse provides a haven from the busy-ness outside and facilitates warm relationships amongst faculty, staff and students. Our morning workshop provided an overview of the six elements of relational teaching, focused specifically on the theme of connection. We spent time discussing the importance of getting the names down (pronunciation), fostering a classroom of inclusion and belonging, and identifying ways to teach intention and mindfulness.

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Nat Damon
Kicking off the School Year

Rolling Hills Preparatory School and Renaissance School are one unified school serving students grades 6-12 in the Greater Long Beach area of Southern California. Together the faculty and staff participated in a day-long workshop focused on three elements of relational teaching: Connection, Hope and Reflection. The image here is from a "Hope Board" that was featured outside the entrance of the main hall on campus. It sums up the spirit of the day—one filled with optimism and excitement about the school year ahead…

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Nat Damon
A Culture of Belonging

On October 10th, I spent the day at a wonderful school for students with diverse learning styles, Westfield Day School, in Armonk, NY. Relational teaching is on full display here, where a focus on a culture of belonging exists in every interaction between teacher and student. I was witness to moments of exploration and challenge, and in every case the students were buoyed by the unconditional support of their teacher and peers. I was preaching to the choir, yet also able to help the faculty formalize the brilliant work they do. As a 20-year old 6-12 grade school, Westfield is no longer new but still young.  Its mission “Linking education and emotional support”... putting relationships first.

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Nat Damon