The types and effects of student-teacher interpersonal relationships, especially in higher learning institutions, have received considerable research in the past years. A lot of Research has focused on the level of interaction in the class, the closeness of teachers to students in and out of classes, parental kind of relationship and the commitment of the student and the teacher (Nooks, 2011). Most of the research done has pointed to the conclusion that; both informal and formal interactions have resulted to student’s individual growth and better academic achievement. This is as a result of the favourable environment created by a teacher, in which the students consider their teachers as their associates or helpers (Michael & Herrold, 2008).
Although interpersonal relationships have had a positive effect on the outcome of the student’s success, some students have used this relationship to influence their teachers to award them higher grades. Others have been known to visit their tutors during the office hours to falsely express interest on some class work in order to seek sympathy grades. This is very common especially if the teacher and the student are of different sex (National Associations of Secondary School, 2005). Also, there has been some cases where teachers seek to exchange good grades with favours; mostly sexual. This shows that an interpersonal relationship between teachers and students has both negative and positive sides (Yoon, 2006). Therefore it is very crucial to know exactly how this relationship improves the student’s grades and at the same time avoiding the dangers that come with it. This paper will explore the ways in which interpersonal relationships can be used to positively affect a student’s success in various circumstances.
The effects of the interpersonal relationships
In a classroom setting, the teacher is the leader in the learning process. The type of leadership used by tutors can either be dictatorial, democratic or laissez faire; the choice of leadership is also affected by the location of the school in the political world. A dictatorial teacher gives instructions to the students, and they are expected to follow without much complains. The teacher is rigid in his methods and punishes whoever does not follow his instructions and rewards whoever adheres to his rules. Meanwhile, a democratic teacher allows the contribution of students and even consults them regarding classroom proceedings (Yong, 2009). Finally, the laissez faire tutor allows the pupils a higher level of independence and the interaction can go up to personal level. Since learning has been complicated by involvement of emotions and feelings, teachers are encouraged to adopt the democratic and laissez faire methods (Washington, 2008).
Teaching has been known to be more than passing information and knowledge to students; it also involves developing the student both emotionally and socially (Kapan, 1995). Therefore, it is vital for the teachers to have an interpersonal relationship with their students; both in and out of the classroom. Despite of this awareness, there is little knowledge on how this interpersonal relationship can be used to improve a student’s intelligence and develop socially. In recent years, we have witnessed the increase of students in the classroom who are from differing backgrounds. To deal with such classes, it is crucial for teachers to develop an arousing and gentle environment. This environment revolves around the feelings, which both the teacher and student have, regarding factors that affect the performance of the student (Foster & Spencer, 2011).
The performance of a student is affected by his interests, maturity level, principles, motivator and background. To take care of each student, the teacher has to establish a good relationship with each one of them. This relationship is affected by the frequency and value of contact established by the teacher. Therefore, an ideal teacher treats every student as an individual and is caring and tender towards his pupils. It is known that if a student associates himself with a certain group, he is bound to become one of them in almost every way. One study found that the academic performance of a group of students who are friends is fairly the same. This shows that if a student wants to perform well in the class, it is crucial that he associates himself with students who have good grades. Better yet, forming a close relationship with the teacher will definitely lead to improvement of grades (Avim & Dahinten).
Through studies, it has been found that a pupil will develop interest on academic matters if the teacher can be able to associate the pupil’s personality in the subject. This means that a teacher must have a huge interest on the students; who they are and their lifestyle. The teacher has to establish contact with the pupils while portraying himself as a person who is eager to help and at the same time boosting their morale. This move is an effective one since it will show the student that the teacher is not only genuinely interested in him, but he is also dedicated to help him achieve his academic goals.
By creating a favourable learning environment, the teachers will be more approachable and have numerous opportunities to help the students. During these sessions, it is important for the teacher to remember the pupil by name, be tolerant and offer constructive advice. If all that is observed, the pupil will be willing to reveal what is bothering him even on non curriculum matters. For example, after the hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, teachers could only continue well with their teaching after they let their classes share their ordeal during the hurricane. It involved the teachers showing their heartfelt concern for the pupils. Some teachers even took the initiative of calling their student’s families to find out if everything was okay. These kinds of actions increase the students trust in the teacher (Earl, 2011).
The pleasant relationship between the teachers and their student will help the pupils feel more comfortable and safe. This will make it easy for the students to concentrate on their endeavours especially foreign students. Those students who come to study in America from other countries come with a lot of misconceptions about the American lifestyle and education. When in the classroom, there is a lot that goes through their mind, and they hardly settle down (Department of Security, 1979). It is the responsibility of the teacher to make such students at ease and be among their first friends. Once some level of trust has been established, it will be easier for the foreign student to share some of his thoughts and fears to the teacher. At this point, the teacher will have the opportunity to separate the myths and facts regarding Americans. Once the student has a clear understanding of his surrounding, he will be able to concentrate on his academics (Austin & Bondy, 2011).
A healthy relationship will obviously make the pupils happy. As simple as it may sound, those bursts of happy moments in the classroom could be the highlight of the day for some students (Payne, 1996). Some of the students may be coming from neighbourhoods which have high insecurity and the fear of death is ever present. Also some of them might be hopeless and have lost the urge of living due to the conditions in which they hail from (Haddad & Chen, 2011). Once again, the interpersonal relationship established between these pupils and their teachers can act as a source of hope and optimism. In the end, not only will these students be encouraged to work hard to improve their lifestyle, but also their families (Amber, Henly, & Sieving, 2011).
Some of the students hail from dysfunctional families and therefore they lack discipline or the guidance itself. It is obvious that a person, especially a student, without guidance is on a path to failure. If the teacher of such a student has established a healthy relationship, he will find himself as the only person interested in the student. An interpersonal relationship between a student from a dysfunctional family and a teacher will help the student to be disciplined and appreciate rules and regulations. Due to technology, teachers and students are able to interact with each other even when at home. This, in many ways, can offer guidance for students who might be seeking emergency advice; especially on matters arising at home.
Since young students spend a considerable amount of time with their teachers, the teachers play a vital role in their early development. At this stage, it is even more critical for the teachers to establish interpersonal relationship because laissez faire form of leadership is the only one familiar to them (Dearing & Collins, 2011). Also, at this stage, the students learn by imitating their teachers; a task that would be difficult without interpersonal relationship. A close healthy relationship will help the kids to develop good communication skills and basically how to behave humanly. This will help them to develop vital qualities of life which will help them to interact well with each other and also with grown ups in the society (Hughes & Wu, 2011).
Some of the children growing up develop behavioural problems. For them, it is difficult to get along with their fellow kids. Therefore, they are usually secluded by other kids when playing and this leaves them very lonely and alone. This seclusion is harmful to the psychological development of the child and might lead to social problems such as shyness in future. However, such a problem can be prevented if the teacher has reached out to the child and acted as a safety net in times of seclusion. Teachers are able to coach children on how to relate with each other, this includes forming activities which ensures that every child has a role to play. This will make the child feel as important as the other and the other kids will learn to bear with his behavioural problem. Thanks to the teacher, the student will learn how to interact and socialize with his peers (Ketlesnic, 2011).
Many learning institutions in major cities are filled with students with different cultural background. In such circumstances, students tend to form groups of the same culture. For example, an African American will feel more comfortable making friends with other African Americans (Rothstein-Fisch, 2008). This will obviously lead to division in the classroom and the general learning process will be awfully slow. However, the teacher can bring cohesion in the classroom by reaching out to them through their culture (Department of Justice, 1984). If the teacher has taken the initiative of learning about the different cultures, it will be easier to reach out to all the students. Through his teachings for example, he can use cases where cooperation has brought harmony among people of different ethnicity and culture. Most importantly, the teacher can give examples of his own experience; this will bring closure. All that will not be enough without one on one interaction with the individual students. Gradually, harmony will be introduced in the class. In such a case, the teacher (through interpersonal relationship) will be able to introduce cohesiveness among students of different culture. In the long run, the students will be able to work together and learn together (Fairbanks & Collen, 2011).
In high school, there are usually many cases of bullying. The fact that another student usually picks on one of the student to mistreat, can be a source of great distraction to the learning of the bullied. Most of the bully cases go unreported because the victim is afraid of the consequences, thus they end up suffering alone. At this point, the only person they can reach out for help has to be some one close (Department of Health, 1979). Unfortunately, for most of them, the closest person is their friend who is usually not in a position to help or do anything at all. However, if the victim and his teacher have formed a close relationship, it will be easy for the student to reveal his problem and obviously the teacher is in a position to help. By taking the bullying load off a student, the teacher would have aided the student to achieve some inner piece and concentrate on his studies. In the end, both the bully and the bullied will have the opportunity to concentrate on their studies and probably become friends (Coloroso, 2003).
All over the world, numerous instances exist that show the importance of having a good interpersonal relationship between a teacher and his student. Many students have benefited from this relationship as discussed in this paper. Therefore, the teachers are encouraged to make their classrooms feel more of a home. A place where student would come to seek refuge on matters that bothers them. They do this by forming positive relations which will eventually lead their students to have a positive outlook towards life in general. Also, teachers should appreciate the culture diversity in the classroom. This is done by not diminishing one group over the other or using words that have been known to discriminate a certain group. Instead the teacher should try to harmonize his class thereby setting an example of how different ethnic group (even if they are enemies) should live (Packman, 1992).
Learning institutions are places where humans develop in many ways; socially, psychologically and intellectually. Teachers who are aware of that do all what they can to ensure their students get the best out the school. Since some students are usually reluctant to approach their teachers, it is up to the teacher to reach out to the students first and the student will follow. The teachers should be aware of what is happening to the student while in and out of school. This is important because the whole environment affects the intellectual development of the student. However, the teachers must be cautious on the level of attention they give. In some cases, these relationships can encourage wayward behaviour. It is therefore up to the teacher to keep in mind the intended goals of the relationship and not deviate from them. Also, the teachers must never abuse the power entrusted on them for their own selfish gain (Department of Education, 1980).
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