By Phil Garner Associate, Independent Schools Portal & Founding Headmaster, Newcastle School for Boys
Relationships in schools can be defined as the connections between students, adults and peers in the school setting that foster positive social interactions and establish a nurturing environment of trust and support.
46 years of working in a school setting have convinced me that positive relationships are key to the overall success of a school and lead to high-quality learning and teaching.Students who feel connected to their school are more likely to succeed, have better attendance, achieve higher levels of achievement and attainment and they stay in school for longer.
Those teachers that develop positive (and appropriate) relationships with their students have the ability to maximise the learning potential of all the students in their classes and groups. Developing these positive relationships is a fundamental aspect of quality teaching and effective learning in addition to promoting a sense of belonging and encouraging cooperation and collaboration. Students develop confidence and are most able to experiment, hypothesise and experiment when they are in a safe and secure environment which embraces questioning, challenging and risk-taking.
John Hattie (2012) noted in his study that a harmonious classroom can assist with creativity as well as reducing anxiety levels and fear of failure amongst students.
The key factors in developing positive relationships in the classroom can be defined as
Seven signs that the relationships between teacher and students are overwhelmingly positive are:
Their classrooms and lessons are STRUCTURED
They display both ENTHUSIASM and PASSION
They display a POSITIVE ATTITUDE
They make learning FUN
They show an INTEREST in the lives of their students beyond the classroom
They treat students with RESPECT
They create a SAFE and SECURE environment for students
‘If civilisation is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships - the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together in the same world at peace.’
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
In her TED Talk, entitled ‘Every Kid Needs a Champion’, Rita Pierson commented that children do not learn from teachers they do not like. Who would want to disappoint a teacher that they really like? Relationship equity is essential.Students notice differential treatment and each and every student needs the opportunity to develop a healthy, appropriate relationship with a teacher. A few ideas to help teachers foster that relationship:
Welcome students at the door at the beginning of each lesson
Make eye contact Personalise your feedback
Make positive phone calls home to praise students
Write thank-you notes to helpful, considerate, empathetic students
Give students more choice and control over their learning
Establish connections outside the classroom by taking an interest in their co-curricular activities
Notice individual accomplishment outside your classroom environment
Attend school events that involve the students
Every student wants to be understood, appreciated and recognised and all students appreciate the personal attention of a teacher. Smile at students; it’s good for you both. •