Some students and teachers click right from the start, and other student-teacher relationships take time to develop. Unfortunately, there are occasions when teachers and students have long-lasting relationship problems. A poor relationship could be the result of a broken bond between them or an ongoing unresolved conflict that keeps the two from connecting. In a situation where the student poses no danger to a teacher, the teacher is often expected to establish a working relationship with the student. It's part of the teacher's role as an educator and mentor to exercise good judgment when dealing with students.
Insensitivity to Student Needs
A lack of awareness on the part of the instructor leads to poor teacher-student relationships. Not all students respond the same way to lessons, and some require personalized educational practices. For example, a teacher might assume that a student who never volunteers in class is apathetic or disengaged. In reality, the student might be a visual learner who doesn't respond well to lecture-style teaching. Relationship troubles between teachers and students surface when a teacher doesn't consider an individual student's educational needs. Personality, family backgrounds, thought processes, learning styles, priorities, maturity levels and academic goals influence each student's ability to learn and connect with educators. Teachers are wise to view each student as an individual who deserves one-on-one attention and specialized, focused instruction whenever possible.
Bullying by a teacher leads to poor relationships with students. Stuart Twemlow, MD, a psychiatrist who directs the Peaceful Schools and Communities Project at the Menninger Clinic in Houston, conducted an anonymous survey of 116 teachers at seven elementary schools. Surprisingly, 45 percent of the teachers admitted to bullying a student. Twemlow defines teacher bullying as "using power to punish, manipulate, or disparage a student beyond what would be a reasonable disciplinary procedure." When elementary, junior high, high school and even college instructors bully students, their behavior results in dysfunctional teacher-student relationships. Students don't trust teachers who bully them, and they don't feel that those instructors have their best interests in mind. Some students lash out at teachers who bully them or withdraw completely -- neither of which is a healthy or productive option.
Crossed Lines and Mixed Signals
Teachers often send students mixed messages. Social networking, texting and online teacher-student interactions complicate classroom relationships. In some cases, teachers get too friendly with their students and cross lines of professionalism, even when sexual misconduct doesn't occur. For example, some students lose respect for teachers who accept their Facebook friend requests and post images of themselves taking part in inappropriate behaviors. When a teacher's private, personal life becomes a part of the classroom environment, some students lose sight of appropriate boundaries.
A leading cause of dissension between teachers and students is rude, disrespectful or condescending behavior. Teachers are often to blame for these types of infractions, but students are guilty as well. Teachers who interrupt students, blame them for classroom problems, ignore students' personal needs, criticize them in front of classmates and demonstrate apathy do their students a great disservice. Instructors should always try to show appreciation, respect, kindness and patience. Displaying flaring tempers, yelling at students and expressing frequent irritation results in stressful and unhealthy teacher-student relationships. Similarly, students who show disrespect, badmouth teachers or ignore well-meaning guidance contribute to strained relationships.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.