COLUMBIA — Neal Blackburn believes in creating positive relationships with his students.
The following are tips for teachers on how to have positive relationships with their students:
- Increase sensitivity and have positive interactions with students.
- Be well-prepared for class and hold high expectations for students.
- Be responsive to students and provide choices whenever possible.
- Use induction rather than coercive discipline. Induction
means explaining the reason for rules and pointing out the
consequences of breaking them. Coercive discipline involves using threats, imposing the teacher's superior power and taking advantage of the teacher's ability to control student resources.
- Help students be kind, helpful and accepting of one another.
- Repair relationships where there are high levels of conflict and the adult has been controlling and dominating.
Source: Christi Bergin and David Bergin
That's why the Gentry Middle School language arts teacher makes a point of not only teaching material to his students, but showing them that he cares about their well-being.
“If you look at your teacher as a figurehead that doesn’t care about the (student), you are not going to put the effort in,” Blackburn said.
A new article called "Attachment in the Classroom" published in Educational Psychology Review found that enhancing teacher-student relationships is necessary to raising student achievement.
The article was written by MU researchers Christi Bergin, an associate research professor at the Assessment Resource Center, and David Bergin, an associate professor in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology.
In general, schools put too much emphasis on cognitive ability when the social and emotional well-being of students also has a powerful effect on achievement, Christi Bergin said.
Blackburn said he agrees with the findings.
“It’s not just what goes on in the classroom, but in the hallways and into the classroom,” he said.
Children with conflicted teacher-student relationships feel stress, which interferes with learning, Bergin said. Blackburn addresses that issue by paying attention to students and their individual situations when they act out.
“It completely depends on the person," he said. "If I know they are coming to school with a lot of baggage, I will deal with it in the hallway.”
With other students, a snapping gesture or giving a student a pat on their back will direct their focus back to the classroom, he said.
The MU researchers developed 12 recommendations for teachers and schools that outline how each can improve the learning environment for students. One of the recommendations encourages teachers to be well-prepared for class and have high expectations for students.
Understanding a child’s emotional well-being also needs to be more at the forefront of educators’ agendas, Christi Bergin said.
“One of the most critical things we need to do in colleges of education is emphasize studying the development of children,” she said.
For teachers to create positive relationships and environments for their students, they must be emotionally stable themselves.
“Teachers need to be cared for and given conditions in which they can meet children's social and emotional needs,” Christi Bergin said.
Adam Sperber, who will be a senior at Hickman this fall, said he agrees relationships with teachers are important in influencing student success.
“Reputation always helps,” Sperber said. “A lot of it goes down by the demeanor in which they teach. If they respect the students, the students will respect them. They gotta find the happy medium in the manner in which they teach.”
Having a positive attitude and outlook, along with occasionally joking with students, helps teachers be more likeable to students, he said.
“I find that the teacher affects the course just as much as the course affects the students,” Sperber said.