Nancy’s Notes 10/6/2021

Taking Responsible Risks Requires Safe and Secure Relationships

“If children feel safe, they can take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, learn to trust, share their feelings, and grow.” (Alfie Cohn)

In March, 2019, The Mabin School launched The Centre for Relationship-Based Learning. Based on the work of Dr. David Tranter, we helped to found a network of educators from across Canada and beyond who understand that “to be relationship-based in education is to understand that relationships form the basis of all human development.” (Tranter, Carson & Boland, The Third Path, 2018)

From March 2019 forward, The Mabin School hosted a number of institutes for educators exploring the eight conditions that Tranter and his colleagues identified as foundational components to support human development. The first component is safety — specifically the physical and emotional safety required to explore and take responsible risks. Children need to know that the adults in their lives truly care and are responsive to their needs. Parents are their children’s first teachers, and by creating a secure base, they allow their children to have a healthy sense of themselves and the world. 

In schools, educators who understand student behaviour from an attachment perspective focus on the underlying needs that a student is trying to meet through their behaviour. Educators can help students feel safer and more secure by being consistent, reliable, and responsive. Education occurs best within the context of safe and secure relationships. By taking on the role of secure base, educators can increase students’ willingness to explore and ask questions, inspiring greater learning and confidence. 

When COVID-19 hit, the members of our network of relationship-based educators continued to do their work quietly in their own settings, but we stopped meeting as a group for institutes and retreats. This fall, we decided to get back on the proverbial horse and find a way to meet remotely. We were determined to continue our mission of starting a movement in relationship-based education. 

Tonight, I will be co-hosting a virtual meeting of 60 education workers from across the country who are curious about how we can adapt Dr. Tranter’s work into a tool that schools can use to improve their implementation of relationship-based approaches. We will be focusing on the first condition, safety, and thinking about what it looks like in classrooms and schools. 

The Mabin School is a model of excellence in progressive education, and we are committed to nurturing healthy relationships, especially with and among our students. As Dr. Tranter writes:

“Relationships are the core of education. We are profoundly social creatures and require stable, positive relationships to learn and grow. For educators, relationships are the context through which all learning happens.” As we head into Thanksgiving, I am grateful to work with a team of educators who understand this as a fundamental truth of teaching and learning.