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Teachers: 6 ways to maintain a "good" relationship with your students

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You are in a noble profession, or so you've been told. Your job is very important. You are charged with moulding young and not so very young minds to accept and nurture what is "good" and so be a credit to society. Because, society needs "good" people if it is to surge upward in its development. 

You're supposed to achieve this noble goal, in spite of whatever resistance/challenge that you meet in the classroom - students who are aggressive, disrespectful, resistant to learning what you are teaching them in the classroom...

Some days the challenge of finding the right balance between allowing your students to be students, thus keeping them always happy, and getting them to perform up to the standard that you know they can perform weighs heavily on you.

I have been a teacher for more than 25 years and I have survived many of these days. On one such day, I thought up this "tongue in cheek" list, intended to stir reflection on the part of the teacher with the aim of improving her relationship with her students and their parents.

So, here are my "tongue in cheek" suggestions for you. I call them 6 ways to maintain a good relationship with your students.
  • Don't ever take offence to anything that your students say or do in the classroom, no matter how tempted you are to do so. For example, you're in a classroom, you outline the work for the session and you set them off to work. One student raises his hand five minutes later and asks, "should we start now?" Just smile and say, "yes, you may start now". Or, if your students swear at you or their classmates, let it slide. Move on. Or, if your students comment on your "assets" or lack of them, don't take offence. Remember, it's their mouth and they have a right to say whatever they want to say.

  • When your students do something really bad, find the gentlest of tones that you possess to point out the inappropriateness of their behaviour to them. Whatever you do, don't show annoyance, don't raise your voice in shock, don't be stern. If you display any behaviour that is not couched in gentleness, you'll be branded as a bad teacher who is using your authority on them.

  • When they give you subpar work, give them all "As" and move on, because if you don't you will be branded as harsh and wanting to stunt their progress and you'll be reported to whoever is in charge to be disciplined, and you don't want that, do you?

  • If students do not submit assignments, give them a "good" grade anyway. Remember that they deserve it.  It's not their fault that the assignment was "too difficult" or that they were "busy" doing anything but school work, or that they gave you the assignment and you must have "lost" it...

  • If your students complain to their parents about you, no matter how frivolous the complaint, when their parents come to confront you at school quickly take responsibility. Then make a note to self, "Beware of what I say to that child from now on!"

  • Don't ever forget to praise your students for any and every kind of behaviour, good or bad. You don't want to hurt their fragile self-esteem. 

If you can't, with good conscience do what is suggested in 1-6, either move out or stay, but if you stay, accept that you'll be forfeiting any chance to maintain a "good" relationship with your students, as defined by some of them and some of their parents. Because you'll be laying down the gauntlet. You'll not be compromising your principles to make them always happy!

So teachers, always recognize that your students will always be students. Many of them do not share  the same urgency as you do to ensure that they get the best possible education that you want to give them. But your job as a teacher is to continue to do the following:

  • Know your students - How can you truly help them if you do not know who they are and what is motivating them?

  • Listen to students - Your students tell you much about themselves each day by what they say and do and how they behave. Hear what they are saying and take appropriate actions.

  • Guide your students - After you get to know your students by listening to them, help them as best you can to chart a way forward to achieving educational success.

You will constantly be tested by your students, no matter how good a teacher you think you are. Therefore, you need to develop strength from the testing to which they subject you to give them the "tough love" that they require to build their educational muscles to take advantage of schooling, no matter how hard they think it is.

About the Author

I am an Educator with many years of experience in the teaching profession. I am also the author of two books, Investing in our success: A glimpse into our world and The Teacher's Gift. Look out for more titles as I am in the process of writing other books, exploring a myriad of issues in education and society. In addition, I blog about the art of writing and my books here and about issues in education here
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @JanetteBFuller

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