A productive teacher–child relationship has been a part of the bedrock of education for centuries. In fact, in ancient India, a child’s initiation into education began with a ceremony called ‘Diksha’, which also marked his entry into a new stage of life. ‘Diksha’ also forged an inseparable bond between the teacher and his student. Although ‘diksha’ is not a part of the modern education system, the importance of a healthy teacher–child relationship remains as pertinent as it was ages ago.
The dynamics of a teacher–child relationship during the crucial early years has a profound impact on the motivation and learning levels of any student. A good relationship between a child and her teacher can turn her into an independent, productive and informed member of the society. But a negative or hostile relationship between a child and her teacher can result in low academic achievement and give rise to several psychosocial difficulties.
So, let’s read on and understand some of the factors that lay the foundation of a healthy, interactive and fruitful teacher–child relationship.
1. Communication – A good teacher does not communicate only to convey instructions to children, but also acts as a role model of ideal communication behaviour. It is often seen that teachers who shout and scream in their class have poor classroom management skills. This also translates to inadequate transfer of knowledge and consequently low learning levels in children.
2. Respect for the child – The hierarchy in a positive teacher–child relationship is not top-down, with the teacher at the top, but, in fact, a circle, governed by mutual respect, with the teacher and child exploring the world of learning together.
3. Identifying and addressing problem behaviours – In a good teacher–child relationship, the teacher identifies and addresses any problem behaviour such as bullying in a straightforward but sensitive manner. This also makes the child feel comfortable sharing her issues and concerns with the teacher.
4. Knowing each other – A teacher with an open and friendly attitude encourages the child to approach her with any problems he may have. This helps the teacher know the child better. Also, direct conversations with the child, regular meetings with parents or home visits can help the teacher understand her students’ learning needs better.
5. Innovations during the learning process – In a positive teacher–child relationship, the teacher customizes and innovates while teaching the curriculum to meet the needs of the child.
6. A relaxed and semi-formal learning environment – Creating an open and relaxed environment motivates a child to learn without duress or fear of punishment.
Parents can also play an important role in fostering a healthy teacher–child relationship by:
1. Being an active participant in the child’s learning – Parents should take an active interest in getting to know their child’s teacher through formal or informal meetings, or by listening to what the child has to say about her teacher. As and when any issues arise, parents should meet the teacher, with or without the child, to discuss and find out a solution.
2. Allowing a transfer of power – Some parents start resenting their loss of authority over their child when she begins attending school. The most common reason being the child’s eagerness in listening to and following what her teacher says. However, such parents should view it from the perspective of the child, who has a new individual in her life to learn from, and thus allow the child to step out and learn from the new experiences.
3. Keeping an open mind – The teacher–student relationship is distinctly different and personal for the child. Parents should keep an open mind about the manner in which their child is being taught. If the child is happy and learning well, parents should try and restrict themselves from forcing their ideas on the teacher, as well as the child.
It is not very difficult for us to understand what makes an ideal teacher–student relationship. We have all had that one (sometimes more than one) teacher(s) who had an immense impact on our life. We need to actively think about the qualities that these teachers possessed, the factors that might help foster those qualities, and the role that both parents and teachers can play in promoting a positive teacher–child relationship.