There are a plethora of factors that can be considered responsible of greatly affecting a student’s achievement: age/gender differences, financial situation, parents’ availability, family education, and even place of residence. However, there is yet another important factor that can promote a student’s academic performance which has traditionally been neglected in research: teacher-student relationship.
With almost 15 years of experience as a student, I have seen it all – from the overly strict teachers who imbue fear and anxiety by treating students in a demeaning and humiliating fashion – to the confused teachers who could not blur the line between being friendly and literally being friends of their students. And recently, I have been thinking about how to keep a right balance between being inviting to your students and still remain a professional? How to set clear boundaries and establish successful teacher-student relationship?
In the past, teachers took a more formal approach being an unquestionable authority in the classroom. They would lead the discussions, find ways to engage students in their respective subjects and control the whole learning environment. Whereas now, with an increasing student-focused teaching, norms in a classroom environment have changed in significant ways. Students, especially at college/university level, reported that they prefer a “laid-back” environment in which they can interact with their professors and each other in informal style. However, there is a danger in being way too informal: students probably won’t respect their teacher, they may not listen to him/her, teacher’s rules will be no longer valid, and in extreme cases, they may intellectually challenge and test their teacher. So, how to build a positive rapport with your students and know that they fully respect you?
Following are my humble suggestions for establishing teacher’s authority while still having warm and friendly teacher-student relationship based on my personal experience and some readings that I have done:
- A Teacher should have a clear idea of the course content, expected learning outcomes and its relevance to the real world experience. Students will not be interested in learning the course if they are not provided with rationale for doing so. Also, if a teacher does not set the objectives for the whole class and connect it to the expected students’ behaviors, students are highly likely to find ways to entertain themselves during the class.
- A teacher should be always prepared. If not, students will notice it within first minutes of the class and as a consequence, they may not trust a teacher to lead them through the semester. It can also foster disrespect for the teacher and gave students an excuse for not working.
- The relationship should be businesslike, not personal. A teacher should get to know students as people, but communicate only on topics related to a course. In addition, students will really appreciate if a teacher knows each of them by names.
- A good sense of humor is essential! It brings positive feelings, enthusiasm to the classroom. No one will doubt that humor is sort of medicine for unmotivated, bored students. However, a teacher should make sure that the classroom is a shame-free zone.
- A teacher should try to be available after classes to chat with students and address any questions they may have, or to appoint them some time during the office hours.
- Students will always want to be in a class where they feel valued. I cannot emphasize it enough.
- Passionate teachers are always inspiring. Students can easily differentiate between a teacher who is merely in the classroom to earn some money and a committed teacher who loves going to work and teaching every day.
Certainly, teachers are held to impossibly high standards while they try to teach and manage a classroom with an increasingly diverse student population. With the pressures on them from every side, sometimes they may fall short of expectations. In these rare cases, students should be supportive and show some dignity and respect for the effort that a teacher puts. And conversely, teachers should aspire to foster favorable learning climate by building strong connections with their students. Without a rapport, education will be nothing but a simple exercise in rote learning.
Do you think it is important for teachers to have trusting relationship with their students? Will it affect your performances in class? Do you have any strategies to develop positive teacher-student relationship?
Photo credits to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8elp6xORJ58