Authoritativeness or friendliness:
Improving relationship with students Part II
photo: Zahedul I Khan
To improve relationships with students a teacher can give students autonomy and opportunities for decision making and by giving them choices in assignments, engaging them in developing classroom rules, and encouraging them to express their opinions in classroom discussions. It is also important to get to know your students by learning what they enjoy to do outside of school, such as hobbies or sports. Other methods of establishing positive relationships between students and teachers could be to organise non-academic extracurricular activities in which students and teachers participate together, have lunch together in small groups a few times a week, or have sessions where teachers act informally as advisors for students.
Teachers who make time to develop positive relationships with their students will see improvement in their students both academically, behaviourally, and emotionally. Students who have positive relationships with their teachers tend to put forth more effort in class and as a result improve their academic achievements.
Throughout my tenure as a teacher, though not significantly long, I have found that building positive relationships with students is truly the foundation that allows quality instruction to occur. Gone are the days when students came into a classroom environment with empty buckets and respected the teacher and the teacher in turn filled the buckets with knowledge. In fact, in the present day free flow of information situation, many students sit in the class with buckets filled with real world knowledge. Much more commonplace is the situation where a genuine "mistrust" or disinterest in education is present due to that particular student's experiences of the real world. Many University students are not self-motivated, thus they need extra assistance/attention in order to achieve in University. These at-risk youth have a greater chance of attaining academic and social success if there is an educator in their life who they look up to.
I have found that when a teacher has a positive relationship with the students, when the students know that s/he really care about them, they are more likely to succeed in class. Like anything else, when you know someone cares about you, puts more effort into pleasing you, you will turn to them when you have a problem, and you will value their opinion. These relationships also benefit the teacher. They make teaching much more enjoyable.
I have observed that it matters to my students when I greet them by name or smile at them. I have also found students get encouraged when I try to know the most challenging student better or admire and comment positively on his qualities and strengths. This often positions her/him behaviour differently attributing to resourcefulness, humour, protectiveness, spirit in the face of adversity etc. This may give the student an alternative self-concept to work towards giving regular positive feedback; showing belief, trust and high expectations, and showing that their success, safety and well-being is of concern. I try to develop a sense of inclusion and belonging by ensuring that there are experiences which guarantee success however small, and I do that by ensuring fairness giving each student their turn; confining behaviour in terms of 'you are not allowed to hurt another student and other students are not allowed to hurt you'; persuading students to take a responsibility and giving positive feedback; using the word 'we' and 'our' to include, not to exclude; avoiding unfavourable comparisons or put downs; speaking about the student positively to others.
There is no definite path traversing which a teacher can create effective teaching-learning ambience in the classroom, for students are human beings with their own likes and dislikes. The main objective of a teacher is to create an environment where her/his students can function normally and in a balanced way.
(The writer is Lecturer, ELT, Department of English, North South University)