“Effective teaching is all about teacher-student relationships” (Wong, 2009, p.68)
Cultivating positive relationships and high expectations is an essential key to the success of students. A teacher has the power to start these relationships off on a positive note. From the first eye contact, smile, and friendly words, the teacher can create a comfortable and positive relationship with the student and parent. There can be positive relationships among teachers and students in addition to those between students themselves. Additionally, and equally as crucial are the relationships built between the teacher and the students’ families as well.
Strategies for Building Positive Relationships
Teacher to Student
First, the teacher needs to show that they care for the students. Having the classroom set up, and fulfilling the first day organizational check list are two ways to show care for the students. When meeting the students for the first time, smiling, pronouncing their name correctly, and making eye contact set a good foundation for showing care. Awareness of body language is important for ensuring communication of a positive vibe since being unaware of body language may convey a negative message. For example, a teacher may be in the habit of folding their arms when listening to others speak. Whether the teacher realizes or not, she is communicating a closed message. In The First Days of School (Wong, 2009), Wong recommends rehearsing various statements in the mirror. This helps increase awareness of what the teacher looks like. And of course, good manners are a must. Those simple statements like “please” and “thank you” show thoughtfulness and sincerity.
Student to Student
Clearly stated classroom guidelines that are rehearsed, followed and taught by example from the teacher can guide students to treat each other with dignity and respect. More practice will be needed however, and simple role playing games can be useful for practicing this skill. Group projects (any size, from pairs to half of the class) and class projects can increase comfort levels among students. Ultimately, the teacher needs to be the continuous example of modeling dignity and respect.
Teacher to Family
Genuine care will show in the teacher’s smile as he or she listens and makes eye contact with the families. Communication should be as clear as possible. Making sure the family knows the expectations will help them support their child in class. A timeline for regular communication scheduled with students’ families will keep the doors of communication open. Depending on the subject area, the teacher may meet only some of the families, which is an important reason for specialists to communicate with the families on a regular basis. If there happens to be any negative things to report, it’s helpful to present the information as positively as possible.
“You can accomplish anything with students if you set high expectations for behavior and performance by which you yourself abide.” (Wong, 2009, p.37)
Positive expectations is expecting all students to be able to learn. This is not to be confused with standards which are levels of achievement. According to Wong (2009), teachers with high expectations of their students will help students achieve high standards. The teacher needs to start with themselves, the teacher, and his or her personal optimism. If the teacher believes he or she will be successful in her profession, they will. In other words, expecting success keeps one in tune and aware of opportunities to help achieve success. The practice of optimism and positive expectations on a personal level shows students the example of what having positive expectations looks like on a daily basis. In addition to the teacher’s personal attitude of high expectations, the effective teacher makes these positive expectations clear on the first day of school, establishes a climate of positive expectations, and holds all students to those high expectations.
Attentiveness to consistent expectations is important in order to avoid damaging students based on making unfair inferences about students and their abilities. Expectation research done in the 1960s by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson, (Wong, 2009, p.40) showed that when teachers were told some of their students were “special”, they expected more from those students and therefore saw a significant gain in intellectual growth in those students. There was not a significant amount of growth among the students not in the “special” group. These results suggest that a teacher will get what they expect from a student.
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