Skip to main content

An Unforgettable Lesson From My Corps Experience

Moved by her experience in the classroom, Sehba Ali (Houston ‘98) shares why building authentic relationships with students is fundamental to their growth and success.

By Sehba Ali

January 8, 2019

Why Building Relationships With Students Matters

Building authentic relationships with students is at the heart of Sehba Ali’s work as the CEO of KIPP Texas. Sehba shares how building trust with students can create space for vulnerability, learning, and growth.

The one lesson I took from my core experience was the importance of building relationships with our students. Relationships that are meaningful, personal, that really allow the child to flourish and to become themselves. It's something that I continue to use in my KIPP experience today. I stay proximate to kids, I like to hear their voices, their opinions, hear what's going well, what's not, and what their aspirations are so we can build the program around them.

If I go back to my Teach For America experience, there's one student who really highlighted for me the importance of building relationships. His name is Jose. He had never gotten above a C on anything. And what I realized is that by building a strong relationship with him, he gained the confidence and the courage to try things differently, to take risks, to really dive into literacy and share with me that he couldn't read, and so we were able to teach him to read together, he and I both working on it together. And for the first time ever, he got an A on an assignment. And I think it really changed his confidence and his desire to perform and to have a different outcome in his life.

When I applied for Teach For America, I had every intent to teach for two years and then go back to Graduate School and become a psychologist. And in my first month of teaching, I got hooked. And I realized that I couldn't leave. And for so many of the TFA alumni that I know who are still in education, most of us had a different career trajectory when we graduated from college. And realized very quickly that we just couldn't leave. That we had to everything we could to change outcomes for children in the communities that we serve.