In every area and throughout every stage of life, we have opportunities to take part in various student-teacher relationships. Depending on our role and current position in life, we may find ourselves as either the “student” or the “teacher” with both positions in the relationship being equally valuable. Whether we are learning under the coaching of another individual or self-sacrificially seeking to raise up those under our care, there is a great amount of benefit to both parties in this type of interaction.
While these relationships may appear different in varying careers, apprenticeships or educational spheres, every student-teacher relationship relies upon key factors to ensure its healthy growth and success in developing both individuals. As we continue toward the middle of this school year, I believe it is beneficial to analyze our interactions with students and identify the core features of our relationships with them as professional educators.
The first component of a healthy student-teacher relationship must be trust. Students are challenged to greet new teachers each year and then have many opportunities throughout the year to develop trust with them. Additionally, there are also many opportunities for a teacher to lose or weaken the trust of a student throughout the year.
The first way to develop and grow this trust is always being committed to doing what is best for them. Students must see that we are consistent in our work and faithful in following through with our promises. As students see our determination and care for them, we develop trust, which is something that is not easily won. However, it should be noted that doing what is best for students does not always align with what they currently desire.
We must hold fast to high expectations and appropriate consequences to ensure that any student’s particularly limited view does not impede their success. This can be very challenging, and may require some temporary friction in the relationship, but will be appreciated by students in the end. Developing and maintaining trust is a long-term goal and requires continual effort on the part of the teacher.
Another element of a solid student-teacher relationship is clear communication. All behavior (good or bad) is communication and students use it each and every day to express their thoughts and needs. As we take in this information from students through their words and actions, we must tactfully assess what is being “said” by students who may be disengaged, struggling to achieve or embracing poor behavior.
Learning to ask students about their thoughts and feelings coming from their perspective can help us to start a dialogue. It can be much easier to engage in direct confrontation, but students are best served when a conversation takes place rather than a conflict. Positive praise has a great impact on students and can be used in a variety of situations.
As teachers, we can easily speak for the entirety of the day and forget the impact of each and every word that we use. While we are called to instruct and maintain discipline, we must also ensure that every word we speak is used for raising students up and not tearing them down. With clear and constructive communication, we fortify our relationships with students each day.
STABLE AND AUTHENTIC
Strong student-teacher relationships are also stable and authentic. In caring greatly for students and our work, it is easy to allow interactions with students to overwhelm our emotions and cause uncharacteristic reactions from us as educators.
To develop and maintain positive relationships with students, we must remain composed in all challenging situations to assure students that our character and decision-making do not waver with circumstances. If we can maintain a stable attitude, classroom and environment for students, they will feel more comfortable to trust those around them, take risks in education and learn.
Additionally, making mistakes is a big part of being a student and being willing to show your mistakes, when they occur, is just as important for teachers. Being willing to address our own mistakes before students is necessary and respected by students just as it is respected by adults. This should not be done in a way to jeopardize our authority, but instead with a heart of humility in acknowledging the imperfections of all and willingness to move forward in each situation. As students recognize the stability of their teacher’s character and the genuineness with which they interact with others, they will grow to greater invest in that relationship with their teacher.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of components to a healthy student-teacher relationship, but a brief list of crucial elements that can provide a foundation for future growth.
Take time to reflect on your interactions with both individual students as well as various groups of students throughout the day. It can be surprising when we find the obstacles that are needlessly hindering our relationship from growing with students and refreshing to enjoy the benefits of reviving a healthy relationship.
What goals can you set to better tend to your relationships with students? As these relationships grow and develop, you will find that students are more engaged, their levels of achievement are higher, and your classroom environment is at its all-time best.