Teaching should be about guiding and inspiring your students, not punishing them
Has something like this ever happened to you?
You’re about to start a new course at university. You’re excited and ready to invest your whole reservoir of productivity to do your absolute best. But, after a few lectures, you realize that you hate it, you don’t want anything to do with it, and you’re absolutely turned off.
Your professor absolutely murdered your motivation.
According to the stats, there’s a small percentage of students drop out because of ineffective teachers and bad school environment. Given that there are more serious reasons why students drop out, like using drugs or needing to make money to support the family, bad relationships between students and teachers should not even be an issue.
I had bad relationships with teachers during my experience as a student. And now, being a teacher, I sometimes catch myself behaving the same way that drove me mad when I saw my teachers behaving like that.
This made me think: what are the things that we, teachers, do that spoil relationships with our students? Based on my experience, and the experience of my students, I’ve made the following list.
1. Allowing Personal to Influence the Professional
When I was still a 6-grader, we had a new math teacher. I always loved math and was one of the best students in my class. However, with this new teacher, my grades started to worsen. I started failing test after test and eventually started hating math lessons. After some time it turned out that the whole class started failing math because our teacher was nervous all the time and didn’t pay attention to our performance at all.
Eventually, after I graduated, I met this teacher one day on the street and she apologized for her behavior, saying that she allowed her personal life to affect her professional life. She was single and couldn’t find a partner for a long time, and this made her bitter.
For a teacher (and it applies to any profession out there), separating professional from personal is the first thing you should think about in the morning. Remember your mission: your function is to teach and guide, not make your students hate you for the reason that’s not even their concern.
2. Grades Become Weapons
One of my students told me the following story. He dropped out of his first college because a teacher used to threaten him with grades, saying that if he doesn’t perform better, he will fail him. Failing this subject meant that my student would have to take another semester studying it over again. Eventually, he decided to drop out and start all over at another college, because it was too much pressure on his nerves.
The study, published by NYU, showed that teacher-student relationship influences a student’s academic performance. Threatening your students and using grades as weapons means that you are responsible for their bad academic performance. And you’re not interested in helping them be more diligent, don’t fool yourself. You just want them to perform better to make yourself seem like a caring teacher when in reality you’re not.
3. Playing Favorites
It happens very often: after a few lectures, you notice that your teacher already has a few favorite students, pretending that other students in the classroom do not exist. If you do this, don’t be surprised if the majority of the classroom will fail your subject and won’t care much.
In a panel discussion, published by Slate, a few teachers discussed the problem of favoritism in the classroom. Although they admitted that choosing favorite students is common, this doesn’t give a teacher the right to give other students invalid criticism. Favoritism is a straight way to spoil teacher-student relationship, so be objective in your evaluations.
4. I Am a Teacher Here!
Honestly, there’s nothing worse than a know-it-all teacher that points out their dominance all the time. In my opinion, no matter how much you know, you still cannot know absolutely everything about your subject.
In the age of the Internet, where billions of new data are uploaded every day, staying updated is extremely hard. Moreover, your students may know something that you don’t. Even in the world of business, companies always listen to their customers because they give them valuable insights. Peter Jefferson, a marketing specialist at the international company Flatfy, shares: “We built our whole company using feedback from our customers. You may know something, but your customer always knows better.”
The same goes for teacher-student relationships. No matter how much teaching experience you have, you can always continue learning, even from your students. There’s nothing shameful in that.
5. No Patience for Feedback
Taking time to answer the questions and giving extra explanations and feedback is important for the learning process. This shows your students that you care. However, many teachers tend to be “too busy” to find a few minutes to make sure that students received the feedback they really need.
The best example is students hating essay writing. Lack of feedback and explanation drives them to order essays and research papers online, which is absolutely unacceptable. So, find the patience to give necessary feedback to strengthen your relationship with students.
6. No to Technology! Yes to the Textbook!
Yes, there are teachers that hate technology. I hate to admit that I used to work with such people. But can you deny something that has already become an integral part of our day-to-day lives? Or should you probably use it for your benefit?
Integrating technology in the educational process contributes to academic performance. It’s already known that students enjoy using smartphone apps for studying purposes, and digital assessments have an advantage over paper tests. Using a textbook is often necessary, but relying solely on the books is obsolete.
7. Is Teaching Your True Calling?
Lastly, if you hate getting up every morning and going to work to meet your students, your relationship with them is already ruined. Ask yourself, whether teaching is really your calling or you’re just doing it by default.
If you do, you should probably consider doing something different. When teaching, you’re dealing with people who have their whole life ahead of them. And if you already hate them before even meeting them, teaching is not your thing.
Having a good relationship with your students is truly a blessing. Teaching is all about guiding and inspiring your students. If you keep that in mind, your students will be forever grateful.