Investing in Relational Capital
Iswari Natarajan, High School Principal

Investing in Relational Capital

I still remember the very first feedback I received on my teaching. It was simple and direct. I had requested a professor whom I held in very high regard to observe my teaching and provide feedback. She said, “You connect well with the students and they like you. Now, you just have to learn how to teach.” As I was processing whether I had just been complimented or critiqued she added,

“It’s a good thing. Building relationships is always the foundation of great teaching.” I have always carried that wisdom and “order of operations” in teaching with me. As educators we should always value the following principles:


Embrace individuality: Students are trying to sort out who they are and how to “show up” in life.  Sassy comebacks, attitudes, or apparent disinterest in learning never tell the whole story. Teachers can give them a gift by embracing them for their individuality and uniqueness rather than giving into judgment.  When teachers affirm the worthiness of each student, connect with them on a real level, both teaching and learning flourish.

Meet student needs: As teachers follow curriculum standards and best practices it is important to remember that students enter a classroom with so many different base-level needs. As teachers help students reach the highest rungs of the cognitive ladder it is vital for them to acknowledge that students have needs that transcend academics. These must be met for learning to happen. These needs aren't in the standards or curriculum. Meeting these social and emotional needs will lay the foundation for students to navigate the cognitive domain.

Be real: Students learn best when they see their teachers being real, authentic, and vulnerable. When educators show that they are people who choose courage over comfort, accountability over blame, and risk-taking over safety, students are inspired to take on challenges they never dreamt possible.


Investing in relational capital pays huge dividends. This is the feeling, the vibe, and the intangible shift in energy that one experiences when you visit our SMA High School. We build authentic and trusting relationships. We also teach.