Transformation Through Effective Teacher – student Relationship
‘A teacher affects eternity and can never tell where the influence stops – Henry Brooks Adam
Teachers play an important role in the trajectory of students in affecting their overall development. Most researchers have highlighted the affective qualities of teachers that have greater impact on the child than the cognitive qualities. Teachers are considered second parents of the child as the child spends more time in school than the home. It is therefore imperative that teachers develop their affective skills to deal with the children under their care. Mahatma Gandhi said,’There is no school equal to a decent home, and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent’. This projects that a school and the teachers have to extend much more in service to the students. He further says that ‘A teacher who establishes rapport with the taught, becomes one with them, learns more from them than he teaches them. He, who learns nothing from his disciplesis, in my opinion, is worthless…’ The main purpose of any educational system is not to provide education to its stakeholders but to create learning communities, where learning is optimum.
What do teachers achieve in terms of educational gains? It is equivalent to the achievement of the students, increase their learning potential, develop positive relationships which will lead to the quality of student interaction and thus affect the quality of learning. The classroom is a mini society with its own cultural milieu. The teacher controls the culture of the classroom along with the students. The variety of characteristics displayed by the students has a great effect on the classroom culture and values upheld by the teacher. The students come from different cultural backgrounds, different intellectual thresholds, and different learning potentials. It requires a great deal of understanding and patience to reach every child and make positive changes in them. It is important to know that every classroom has the physical aspect and the affective aspect. Even if the physical aspects are not taken care of, the teacher needs to keep all children high on motivation, interest, and positive attitude to learning. All these are aspects of the affective domain that need considerable attention from the teacher. Most of the time teachers are not trained to handle the individual differences in the classroom. These individual differences pose a great challenge to student–teacher interaction. How to deal with a slow learner, a dyslexic child, a child with physical disabilities, a hyper active child – all this needs proper training.
A child must be developed in all dimensions – intellectual, physical, mental, interpersonal relationships. Most of the time, the school mainly concentrates on intellectual growth and provides cognitive experiences. This mainly satisfies the parent community as it leads to more marks in the exams and the child is able to compete at various competitive exams and select a good career. But this will not suffice when the child needs to live a fruitful life where aspects of dealing with others, leading a group, undertaking individual responsibilities, displaying commitment and developing consciousness towards others is expected. A fully grown individual and a well adjusted person needs to have a well developed affective part.
Cyr and van IJzendoorn, 2007; Sabol and Pianta, 2012 established the co-relation between teacher student relationship and academic success, school adaptation, good classroom management and better peer relationships. Hamre and Pianta (2006) found out that teacher student relationship is related to contextual and individual characteristics of the child. Riley (2011) considers the teacher–student relationship as an attachment dyad where he acknowledges that teachers are not only care givers but care seekers too. They thrive in an atmosphere where stronger interpersonal bonds are encouraged. Shaughnessy, 2012; van der Hoeven et al, 2011 suggest that emotional coaching promotes development of social and emotional competencies among children and encourages more affective and humanist relationships. The Australian Society for Evidence Based research – Advocates of evidence based education, know that students who have constructive relationships with their teachers are more likely to do well at school, and teachers who actively build such relationships have a strong effect on the lives of their students.
The Meta-analysis on achievement shows a strong correlation between teacher-student relationship and student achievement. The researchers established a correlate between an effective classroom atmosphere with an effective teacher-student relationship. Effective relationships bring in more openness to mistakes, friendliness, collaborative atmosphere and space for free ideas. This definitely would bring in higher student achievement.
Achievement is one aspect of an effective teacher-student relationship. All achievers are not successful persons in the society. Some of the qualities required of successful persons are patience, good communication, punctuality, honesty, passion, self confidence and service orientation. These qualities are caught rather than taught. Students are keen observers; therefore teachers must be role models for their students. They must emulate characteristics expected of a well rounded personality. Most writers highlight two qualities of effective persons, that is, they are leaders and life-long learners. Teachers are leaders in their class and in all situations teachers must focus on training their students in effective leadership skills. The classroom must be converted into a learning community in order to have effective teacher-pupil as well as effective peer interaction.
What are some of the ways that teachers can adopt for optimum teacher-student relationship for transformation? Some of the ways are listed here below:
- Understand the Learner Profile – A learner profile alerts the teacher on the different kinds of students in the class. Teachers must be prepared with differential instructional strategies for the children as every group is composed of different kinds of students. It is not easy to deal with them unless the teacher develops knowledge and skills for such treatment. Thus an effective teacher would understand and extend to every child differently, thus maintaining equity rather than equality in the class.
- Encourage intensive and frequent peer interaction– Most teachers complain of classroom indiscipline while they are teaching. Man is a social animal and thus interaction with peers is inevitable. Children want to talk and express their ideas mainly to their peers. Group interactive teaching-learning methods are available in cooperative learning methods. Teacher must be aware and use these methods in the classroom; this will promote greater peer interaction and bring in a relaxed atmosphere in the classroom and also help in developing student leaders. Teachers can create a network of children who are highly perceptive of their peers; they can keep the teacher informed about the children’s difficulties and their inner emotions. These liaisons can help the teacher establish a good relationship with her students.
- Promote student leadership – There are different situations where the students can display their leadership qualities, whether it is to organise activities or to maintain classroom discipline. Students are the best judges of their peers, they are aware of the ways their peers react and most often are aware of the problems that they are going through.
- Communicate effectively – A good communication style – verbal and non verbal builds effective relationships. The theory of transactional analysis states that most of the time the parent–child format is used for communication in schools. Teachers must be empathetic while communicating with the students, use words of care and compassion.
The other aspects that need to be looked at are – charting the students’ performance and giving feedback objectively, counselling students on their behaviour, connecting effectively with parents, maintaining positive attitude to curriculum and students, displaying high level of accountability, maintaining good relationship with colleagues, providing academic and career guidance and lastly working on effective teacher qualities.
In conclusion, effective teacher-student relationship can promote diagnosis, remediation, control on unacceptable student behaviour, better integration of students to learning and ultimately aim at transformation of students. Teachers, who are life changers and the torch bearers of society, thus require a high level of accountability to the transformation of students.
Riley, P.(2011): Attachment Theory and the Teacher-Student Relationship, Routledge.
The Australian Society for Evidence Based Teaching Turning Research into Practical Advice: What Everyone Needs to Know About High-Performance, Teacher Student Relationships,
Cornelius-White, J. (2007). Learner-Centered Teacher Student Relationships Are Effective: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 113–143.
Dr Vini Sebastian, Associate Professor, St. Xavier’s Institute of Education, 40-A, New Marine Lines, Churchgate. Mumbai -400020. Dr. Vini Sebastian is a teacher educator for the last 20 years and has been involved in curriculum development in the University of Mumbai, research and extension work in teacher education.
Dr. Vini Sebastian is an author of the book ‘Harnessing Parent Resource for Schools’, Lulu Publication. Dr. Vini has completed her research in the area of ‘Academic freedom, Accountability and Professionalism of Teachers in Higher Education’. With so many years of experience in teacher education she believes that, ‘Education is the only way to transform hearts’. St. Xavier’s Institute of Education is the oldest, teacher education institution in the city of Mumbai.