Student-teacher relationships don’t have to be overly complicated to be beneficial for students.
Positive student-teacher relationships can help improve the learning process for the entire classroom. Students feel more comfortable asking questions and coming to an instructor for help when they trust that the input they receive back is genuinely in their best interest. Even outside of academics, a student who feels bullied is more likely to come to a teacher he or she has a good relationship with so that the situation can be addressed and resolved.
Here are a few tips for developing healthy, constructive student-teacher relationships:
1. Create a Positive and Interactive Environment
The American Psychological Association suggests that one way to improve student-teacher relationships is to foster a classroom environment that is positive overall. One way to do this is to work on improving student-to-student relationships. Encourage collaboration during and after school by leading an activity or club. Regularly hold discussions and activities that allow students to connect and feel comfortable asking questions.
2. Make Yourself Available
Making yourself available can mean more than providing students with an easy, non-invasive way of contacting you, such as a preferred email address. It can also speak to the way a teacher presents his or herself. Would your elementary, middle, or high school-aged self have felt comfortable approaching you as a teacher? If not, what about your self-presentation might be hindering these student-teacher relationships? Something as simple as standing in the doorway of your classroom to greet incoming students can set the right tone.
3. Treat Students as Individuals
Take time to get to know a little bit about each student on an individual basis, even if that only means having the occasional brief conversation. Especially in a smaller classroom, try to find out at least one unique fact about each student; knowing more about what they choose to spend their free time doing can provide a lot of information about how they learn and see the world.
4. Establish Respectful Boundaries
This includes observance of basic manners to help maintain a respectful atmosphere. Students should not call you by your first name, and you should not swear around them or share overly personal information. Leave your door open when you are alone in a room with a student or students. Just as being overly distant can be damaging, so can allowing student-teacher relationships that encourage too much reliance on the authority figure in the room. Be as clear about your boundaries as possible to maintain your role as a trustworthy, approachable teacher and avoid having your students see you as a peer or friend.
5. Manage Your Own Emotions
When a student is displaying particularly disruptive behavior, it may be difficult not to take their comments or actions personally. Take a deep breath if you feel like losing your temper and sit down for a moment. Pausing to let the anger subside is a much better option than contributing to the situation with your own emotions. If necessary, ask for help from another teacher or administrator in finding a solution to a difficult problem. Remember that you are the adult in the room. Never resort to yelling or making demeaning comments, as both are signs that you have lost control of not only the situation, but also your classroom and yourself.
Healthy student-teacher relationships are wonderful. They contribute to a meaningful learning environment and help prepare students for later professional relationships. Read on for more about the soft skills that can help students thrive in the workforce.