Recently, I took part in a round table discussion sponsored by +Works (http://www.positivethinkingworks.org/). The meeting was held on the campus of the school I serve and it included a small number of area school leaders.
As the meeting went on, the conversation turned to examples of how students display courage in the face of difficult decisions. Supporting students in their desire to make the right choice came up and it was then that I shared an analogy I have used before that involves the need for support and the value of strong connections among students.
The analogy uses the image of a book case.
The book case is a system. It is made with pieces that not only support the items you put on the shelves, but to support the system itself. Without a top, bottom, sides, brackets, and shelves, the book case would be unstable and fall down. Without a doubt, if you put books on the shelves, they will stay off your floor.
However, you are probably seeking more than just a place to keep books off the floor. You also want to organize them in a way that makes sense or more accessible. Function alone is not the objective. Function and design present a much more enchanting experience when you look at your books.
Therefore, when you look at a collection of books in a book case or on a shelf, it is often the other books that support each other that make the difference and clearly communicate that the owner cares about something more than keeping the floor clear of books.
I think the same can be said of support systems. These systems can be designed for students, teachers, parents, or administrators. It really doesn't matter. What matters is that relying only on outside systems alone is only part of the solution. The solution that often makes the biggest difference and determines the value added to the challenge is often how we relate to the people next to us, physically, socially, and emotionally.
This is why building relationships and working to make connections with those we find ourselves with is so important. Being friendly, reliable, interactive, trustworthy, and responsive allows us to strengthen relationships and when we decide to share what we know in an effort to create knowledge, we nurture the connections we may ultimately need as part of our own support system.