Prioritizing Relationships Over Being Right [Episode 134]


Click below to hear about my personal refrain of prioritizing relationships:


As you all know, my outlook and perspective on life are usually black and white. Especially when it came to teaching, I gave clear rules and procedures that needed to be followed in my classroom. However, when I became a parent to three children, my perspective started to shift and change. This got me thinking about how what I’ve learned through parenting would affect me as a teacher and all the ways these lessons would transfer to the classroom.

In the last episode, I discussed refrains to use in the classroom or at home. In this episode, I wanted to focus on a personal refrain: prioritizing relationships over being right. In my black-and-white world, I always wanted to be right, make my point, or show someone how something should be done. I ran a tight ship in my classroom, which honestly is beneficial at times, but that doesn’t outweigh the relationships and bonds you form with your students. 

So how can this refrain of prioritizing relationships over being right translate to the classroom? I share how I first used this with parenting, then discuss how to apply it to your teaching, particularly when it comes to classroom management. Should you always pick the relationship over the efficiency of your classroom? Or is there a way to establish rules, procedures, and routines before establishing relationships? I’m diving into all of this and more!

Topics Discussed:

  • How my personal refrain of prioritizing relationships over being right can transfer to the classroom
  • The concept of middle ground and why this concept is hard for me, but something that is necessary in my life
  • Ways you can still establish rules, procedures, and routines in your classroom and still prioritize relationships
  • Examples of using this refrain in your classroom and at home

Resources Mentioned:

Related Episodes and Blog Posts:

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More about Secondary Science Simplified: 

Secondary Science Simplified is a podcast specifically for high school science teachers that will help you to engage your students AND simplify your life as a secondary science educator. Each week Rebecca, from It’s Not Rocket Science, and her guests will share practical and easy-to-implement strategies for decreasing your workload so that you can stop working overtime and start focusing your energy doing what you love – actually teaching!

Teaching doesn’t have to be rocket science, and you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to simplify your secondary science teaching life so that you can enjoy your life outside of school even more. Head to itsnotrocketscienceclassroom.com/challenge to grab your FREE Classroom Reset Challenge.

Rebecca 0:00
Welcome back to the secondary science and we’ll find podcasts. And I’m excited to kind of continue in this. Honestly, it’s like a semi random series I’ve just been really thinking about doing for a long time. And it’s this idea of like things I’ve learned from being a parent, and how they would affect me as a teacher, things that I feel like would transfer from parenting to teaching are ways that I’ve been changed. And I’ve rethought teaching entirely in my life as a teacher because of becoming a parent. And so last week, I kicked this off with episode 133. Talking about using refrains. This is something I use in my classroom before ever becoming a parent. Now I use them as a parent. And then some of the ones I use as a parent like really would apply back to the classroom. So it’s all about refrains. This is something you may already be doing and not even realize it’s something you have an opportunity to be intentional about if you haven’t been already. And so if you haven’t given episode 133 A listen, you should. So this week, continuing on with things I’ve learned, you know, as a parent, and really have changed me, is actually a personal refrain. Okay. So last week, the these refrains I was talking about are things that like I’m saying, to my children, to my students, and I’m hoping that they remember and they hear my little voice in their head, you know, in their moments of conflict, or in their moments of paralysis when they’re trying to work through a hard test problem. Okay, I want them to hear my voice. This week, I’m actually sharing one of my own personal refrains, which is something I’m actually constantly reciting in my own head. Okay, I am speaking this over myself. 24/7. And it’s this concept of relationship over right. Prioritizing relationships over being right, and I first introduced this, I can’t remember what episode it was, but I had one of my best friends from college introduced this idea to me with parenting when we were talking about a parenting conflict and struggle, we were both kind of walking through, and I haven’t been able to let it go. Since. Okay, haven’t stopped thinking about this idea of relationship overwrite, it’s really transformed how I approach parenting and a lot of ways. And I mentioned it on this podcast, you know, once before, and then the reason that I got motivated you this specific episode about it is at the beginning of the year, when I send out my annual like podcast survey, where I’m just kind of asking everyone like, Hey, what are you liking? What are you struggling with? How can I help? Someone submitted this? They said, I have a question about a couple of episodes. In one, you talk about relationship, overwrite as a guiding principle. And this teacher even referenced Episode 90, and you know, we love it. We’re excited. So that was an episode 90, which I’ll link in the show notes. But in another episode, Episode 33, you talked about how you made the mistake of not addressing a minor infractions, because you wanted to have a good relationship with your students. So I’d love to hear more about how you determine where that middle ground is, and how you address those minor infractions in a way that supports your relationship with the student while still holding them accountable for their actions. And I just thought that was a great question. And so we’re going to cover it. In today’s episode, we’ll talk about this concept of relationship over being right and kind of how I put that into practice. And then also balancing this middle ground when it comes to classroom management, which is just a very tricky thing. So without further ado, let’s dive in. This is secondary science simplified a podcast for secondary science teachers who want to engage their students and simplify their lives. I’m Rebecca joiner from it’s not rocket science. As a high school science teacher turned curriculum writer, I am passionate about helping other science teachers love their jobs, serve their students, and do it all in only 40 hours a week. Are you ready to rock the time spin in your classroom and actually have a life outside of it? You are in the right place teacher friend. Let’s get to today’s episode.

So first, I want to address this concept of middle ground that the teacher who posted the original question brought up like how do you deal with this middle ground of balancing one thing over the other and I just feel like I need to start off by saying this is not my forte, or my area of expertise and I feel like it is something that I have been stretched in and I’m still have so much stretching to go I’m growing a lot in this way. I live in the black and white shout out to all you Enneagram ones out there who are listening who can relate to that. And that is hard because so much of life is lived in the gray and things not just being so cut and dry. And every year I kind of choose a word for my year and typically I have like a word for my personal life that I’m kind of like using as my goal or my theme and a word for my business and what I’m focusing on last year my word for my business was literally chemistry in 2023 like it Everything came down to chemistry, if it interfered with chemistry happening, then it did not happen. You know, like, that was my my work word. And then I had a different one for my personal life. This year, I actually chose two words. And it’s so it’s a motto, and it’s for my work life, and it’s for my personal life. And it’s this concept of no rules. Because again, I’m this Enneagram one, I want things to fit in boxes, I want things to be cut and dry, and black and white, I make I make rules for things that don’t even need rules. Because that’s just like how my brain works. Everything is a spreadsheet, okay, so and I don’t want to live that way. And so that’s kind of been my motto. And I That’s how I’ve approached the business this year. And running. It’s not rocket science is like, okay, there’s no rules, I don’t have to do anything, some type of way can be any way it needs to be, it’s really freed me up a lot creatively. And I would also say to, if I’m perfectly honest at all, I’m learning a lot in therapy about like living in tension. And not always like checking everything off the to do list, or not always being able to categorize everything into two or three or four categories. Some things are uncategorizable, like some things just are gray, and there’s that tension. And so I tell you this, because I struggle living in the middle, and I’m trying really hard to do it, it’s actually my priority this year to push myself to live in that middle ground. So I just want to tell you that I’m not an expert at this, but I’m gonna do my best to answer your question, because that’s what I’m here to do. So let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about first, this idea of relationship over being right and how this played out in my parenting. So if you’re not a parent, I know you may want to skip over. But I do feel like this context would be helpful because I first started using this concept as a parent and then started thinking this would really apply to the classroom. So first, I feel like your firstborn child, God bless them. You don’t know what you’re doing. And they’re your very first experiment. And you know, you only have as many trials as you do children’s, it’s not like you’re even getting a lot of trials here. So the data is dodgy at best. And we’re really just winging this thing. And I see that so much in how we create firstborns, to have these firstborn traits that are so characteristic of them, like I have created my firstborn child to be who he is, by me not knowing what’s going on. And me like figuring it up out and making up the rules as I go, and him knowing it. And so him always wanting to argue with me about the rules, like he loves to argue, we always say like, you would make a great lawyer one day, you know, he will remember verbatim what you said, and he will manipulate even the smallest word I had. It’s actually been great for me, and very humbling. I’ve really learned to think about what I say more, because I know that anything I say can and will be held against me, okay, in a court of law. That is the judge is presiding judge is my six year old, okay? And this is hard for me, because sometimes I can engage in these dialogues with him, dare I say arguments where I’m so annoyed, and I just want to be like, I’m the adult here and you’re wrong. And I’m right. And it sounds so petty, even just confessing this to you. But I’m just going to be perfectly honest. Like, I get into these power struggles with my children. And it’s not worth it. It is not worth it. Preserving the relationship is more important than me being right, in this instance, and me proving to you that I did not actually say that you’re just manipulating me or I have like, literally, like my told my husband, like our six year old gaslights me, but it’s true. And like even thinking about being right about time, like I am a very timely person, I hate making people wait, I’m basically never late. And children made that very difficult to uphold that standard. And sometimes I have sacrificed my relationship with my children, for the sake of being right on time. And that’s not worth it. I shouldn’t be five minutes late, if it means I don’t have to snap at my kids or I don’t have to rush them unnecessarily or yell at them. Because I’ve had to tell them 17 times to go put their socks and shoes on, I can prioritize caring for them as a human over being right and being on time. And so those are just two examples of ways that this has kind of been playing out. But it’s really been a mental thing for me of in a moment of conflict or tension or rushing, because I’m, I really hate being rushed. And it feels like as a parent, we’re always rushing around. I don’t know how to combat that. If you have tips DM me and let me know but taking a breath and being like,

Okay, I’m going to love this person more than I love being right, or being in charge or whatever it is. And it doesn’t mean I just let them stomp all over me. I don’t have that kind of personality at all. I really have to be steamrolled if I’m going to be trampled in any way, but I really feel like it’s taking a breath and caring and seeing again, going back to last episode, seeing them and not caring about how I am seen or how I come out in front of my kids but like really Seeing them as an individual person. So that’s kind of how this all started. And then the more I thought about it, I was like, This is funny. Like, I really feel like this is something I tried to do in the classroom a lot. I wasn’t very good at it. But I did try and apply so well. So I think, thinking about this concept of relationship over being right and thinking about the teachers, qualm that was at the start of that episode of How do I balance this, like with these minor infractions? Do I just skip over them, he’s told me not to skip over them. So I would say, beginning of the year priority, let me give you some context, the episode referenced by that teacher, Episode 33 is, you know, mistakes to have, make sure you don’t make at the beginning of the year, just things don’t do these five things, or whatever the number is, because then it’ll make the rest of yours so much harder. I think at the beginning of the year, you really have to train, train, train, train your students in the procedures in the way that things are done in your classroom, you want these things to be second nature, you don’t want to be expending energy in February, reminding them how we turn in our homework, okay? So at the beginning of the year, when there’s no relationship, okay, there’s no relationship to prioritize, because you don’t even have one yet. You don’t even know these people, you will prioritize training, we want to be proactive, so that later, we don’t have to be reactive. Now, we’re going to be training this and it’s going to be very non emotional. Why? Because this isn’t about you. And you shouldn’t take any of it personally, they don’t even know you at the beginning of the year. So anything that they do that feels like a personal offence, don’t take it, don’t take it at all, it cannot possibly be personal, because they don’t even know you. So that’s where I just want you to be super calm, super level headed, you are just continually making clear the expectations and reinforcing the consequences over and over and over again, you’re doing so consistently being the year that is your priority, the beginning of the year, you will maybe come off as nitpicky, you’re going to address every minor infraction, you’re gonna do it calmly, it’s not going to be personal, you’re just gonna be like, Oh, hey, just a reminder, that’s how we do things in here. And you’ll notch I know, every teacher does different, but like, hey, in here, we do things XYZ, or I always tell my kids my house, hey, in our house, we don’t say words like stupid, okay, or we don’t call names ever period in a story, you know. So things are different here, it’s very, very, this is very black and white, we’re just going to be very clear, non emotional about it, that’s your beginning of your goals. Again, you have to do this to begin the year. So you can be proactive, so that later you’re not reactive. Now, as the year goes on, you’re going to be developing a relationship with these students, you’re going to start to know them more personally, you will start being more comfortable with them, they will start being more comfortable with you, conflicts will start arising because they’re not going to be on that beginning of the year, you know, trying to make a good impression behavior, how some of them will. And this is where we start to enter that middle ground of like, okay, maybe now we’re going to yield more to prioritizing the relationship over being right, now that I know this person. And I know that if I correct this one thing, it’s going to just absolutely send them off the rails, you know, that’s where we start knowing them better and knowing how to handle it better and knowing like, hey, maybe this is one than what times I should let it go. And so that’s kind of the lens with which I want to answer your question. Okay, so the original question, and the moment how do I handle these minor infractions without compromising relationship? I had in the beginning, like I said, you don’t have a relationship. So we’re just going to address a dress a dress, super black and white, not emotional. It’s not personal. I’m just teaching you how things are done in my home, in my classroom, you know, whatever it is, as time goes on, I think it’s so important. Don’t be petty. It’s so easy. I think pettiness is the new sarcasm that was kind of a weapon that teachers could use as we were growing up. And I think pettiness is kind of taken over that. And I think it’s our job. I think sarcasm can be hilarious, but it can also be really wounding. I think, pettiness can be hilarious. It can also be really wounding. So I just want to challenge you. Don’t be petty. So don’t just pick on things that don’t actually matter. really prioritize matters. I would also say prioritizing relationship over being right is like don’t make a scene. I have a very outgoing personality and a lot of showmanship I would say in the classroom. I do a lot of performing. I feel like in the classroom. I am like my most outgoing, loud, boisterous self. That’s a lot coming from someone who is an introvert, I recharge alone, but I can show up and show out when it comes to it. My personality is on display, as my mom would say, you could tell that I went to art school when I’m teaching, but I think prioritizing relationship of her being right is like not making it a whole big thing. It can be a small thing. I think it’s not calling someone out in front of everyone else. Not calling something out that doesn’t need to be called out. Is it something you could just address later and not in the moment? I understand that some things need to be addressed in front of everyone because it needs to be a teaching moment of like, Whoa, let’s just like rewind. Let me give you another chance to say that again and remind I need you before you do that we don’t speak to each other that way in here. Now, would you like another chance to say that again, that’s the way you’re offering grace, that you’re still prioritizing, you know, we’re gonna treat each other rightly. But I think a lot of times too, if it doesn’t need to be addressed, and everyone in front of everyone, if it doesn’t need to be a teachable moment, this is something I would just put in your back pocket. And then when the bell rings, you grab Grayson by the elbow and you bones aside, as people are finding out, and she’s like, Hey, I just kind of want to address this, this rude comment you said, or, you know, when you kind of made a scene, you know, in the middle of the lab, or, you know, when you were combative with me about your late points. That’s how we handle in the classroom, you know, the procedure of how we deal with late work, you can come talk to me after school, you can come talk to me during tutoring, I don’t want this to create a conflict between us. So another refrain I use in parenting is I do not want this to come between us. Whatever this conflict is. So like, what can we do to make it right, what can I do to make it right? Is there a way that I wasn’t clear about the expectation, and I think just addressing it in that privacy of the moment. So I think, in practicality, because I want to leave this practical for you guys, the beginning of the year, we’re teaching them how to do it, right, because they don’t know they’ve never been in your classroom, they don’t know you were taking nothing personally, because again, they don’t know you don’t know them. As time goes on, then we build those relationships, then we’re going to start really prioritizing being the relationship over being right, we’re not going to call out every single little thing unless we feel like we need to, if we need to address something, we’re going to do it in private if we can, after the fact. And if we need to make this a teachable moment and remind the whole class of something based on how a student behaves, we kind of do it like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, pause. Let me remind you of the way we do things in this class or the way we talk to each other or the procedure we have. And then I want you to take a deep breath with me. Okay, I’m gonna give you a chance to say that again, I’m going to act like I never heard what you just said, Try again. And then from there, you can decide, you know, okay, now we have to have a consequence or whatever. But I think really making it not, it’s not about being right, like, it’s not just you out there, you know, being a dictator, like they’re in even the beginning here, maybe you can give them some context for why you do the things the way that you do. So they can understand the why. That’s the beauty about teaching high schoolers, which I love is like, we can really explain why we do things. A lot of times my two year old, he doesn’t understand the reason. So I just got a drill, drill, drill, train, train, train, it’s hard. But we have that privilege with teaching high schoolers. And so you can kind of give them context for that, too. So I hope that helps. Again, this is a personal refrain of mine in my own head. If you have something like that, that you say to yourself a lot like relationship of a writer’s and you’re constantly reminding yourself, I would love to hear it. So DM me and let me know. And I would love it if you are a parent. And being a parent has changed who you are as a teacher, I would love it. If you’d love to review, I would love to hear from you and how that’s impacted you as a teacher. I had the privilege of going back to the law school, I taught out to watch one of our beloved babysitters a few weeks ago playing a soccer game, and then a couple other students playing a baseball game old students playing a baseball game and obviously just the object and I’m gonna be honest, so I missed being in the classroom more than I ever have before and last six years, and I’m starting to brainstorm now like maybe I do go back part time and just kind of slow down the business and maybe go back less podcast episodes, less curriculum writing, so I can get back to teaching because I missed it because I just think I would do things so differently now because parenting has changed me. So if parenting has changed you as a teacher, I would love to hear it. DME. leave a review. Tell me about it. And I will link anything that I mentioned in the show notes at it’s not rocket science classroom.com/episode 134 And you can check it out there. All right, teacher friends. That wraps up today’s episode. If you’re looking for an easy way to start simplifying your life as a secondary science teacher, head to It’s not rocket science classroom.com/challenge to grab your classroom reset challenge. And guess what? It’s totally free. Thanks so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you here next week. Until then, I’ll be really free teacher friend.


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