The world does not always tend to the wisdom of youth. Even though society continues to grow more than ever before, the rigidity of age remains the hierarchical stronghold as old minds decide the future. In a conflict of interest, we continue to make decisions that look to comfort already lived lives. These choices diminish the hope of those who have to live through regressive outcomes.
A classroom is a place where teachers cultivate young minds—where the future comes to life. A strong relationship between teachers and students serve as more than just a path to academic success. It has the chance to preserve minds full of ideas that the world isn't ready to accept. A teacher can stand as a barricade to ensure growth and prosperity that can last a lifetime.
A Champion for the Students
Maya Angelou, doctor, poet, and activist faced destructive hardship in her childhood. As an inspiration to many and a mother to all, she knew why the caged bird sings.
At 3, her parent's marriage fell apart and led her to find different homes between Arkansas and St. Louis. Living with her grandmother until the age of 8, this was already a tough life for a young child, and it only worsened. It was then, when she moved back in with her mother, that her mother's boyfriend took her youthful innocence. After standing trial, he was murdered only after a day in jail. With the fragility of a child's mind, the outcome weighed heavily on her shoulders.
"I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again because my voice would kill anyone."
This single moment in time took her voice, and for five years, she went on in a vow of silence, and no one could give her the key to her cage.
Bertha Flowers, Maya's teacher, saw her pain and confinement as she helped her realize the power of having a voice–a skill she had given up. In her book, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,' Maya talked about the impact Mrs. Flowers had on her when she was a child–the elegance and the admiration she felt while in her presence. In a quote from her teacher, she recalls the moment she moved towards her bright and prosperous future.
"Your grandmother says you read a lot. Every chance you get. That's good, but not good enough. Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of a deeper meaning."
It was through a healthy connection between the two that helped the world create the amazing woman that Maya Angelou came to be—a graceful voice in poetry and society. In every classroom, at every school, teachers have the chance to ignite the flames of tomorrow.
School is more than just education and academic progress. The dynamic minds of students need more than only data transmission to become successful down the road. And it is under these conditions that a teacher and student have such an alchemic explosion of possibility.
It's in the Little Things
As in love and life, building strong relationships in the classroom comes with the extra ordinary rather than the extraordinary. With consideration and respect, students can cultivate a healthy perception of the teacher that can aid an environment of growth (1). It takes two factors that can make a difference.
Teacher Noticing. With the acknowledgment that takes the extra step towards warmth, students can feel a sense of welcoming and respect. In *Insert Study*, the researchers quote a student as saying: "In class, when she calls me by my last name. It just makes me feel accepted that she notices me a lot. And so, yeah, those things make me feel especially close to her."
Teacher Investment. Teaching, when seen as an obligation versus an opportunity, can lead to two different outcomes. With the later, teachers often reach out to give genuine interest in student success. In the study, a student said: "If I ask her a question, she'll really make sure I understand it before letting me go and trying to do it on my own, and that's just really nice because some teachers will be like, "Okay, do you have it now?..."
The relationship of a teacher has with their students is a fundamental element in the environment in which they create. With such, teachers can develop a protective barrier and set the standard for student behavior.
Protective Role of Teacher Relationships
Since teachers set the tone of the classroom, they influence how they should treat each other. Healthy relationships, defined by warmth, open-communication, and social support, can be a barrier to peer victimization and psychological distress. They encourage similar relations between peers, order, and discipline.
Validating Emotions and Intellect
Students and this is especially true for younger individuals, often have a delicate hold on their unique perspectives. Through encouragement, teachers offer them the chance to continue developing in their unique way. This opportunity helps create a pattern for the future and can be the key to assisting them to become successful and fulfilled adults.
Freedom and Comfort from their Personal Lives
Often, when I think about education reform, I naturally think of a student of healthy well-being. What about you? The thing is, not all students have an ideal life outside the walls of the school. It's unfortunate, but teachers can often be superheroes who give them a haven from everything painful. Identifying personal issues and catering to their needs is more comfortable with healthy relationships and can go as far as saving a life.
Aid in Problem Solving
Learning, no matter the occasion, can be stressful. Eventually, a student will face a topic that is more than they can comprehend. Though some push through with sheer determination to figure out the difficult things, others lean on the teacher for help. No matter the case, when teachers put effort into understanding their students, they can better optimize the support they give.
The role of the teacher in the classroom means more than just helping students get good grades. They make a profound difference and help their students move towards the future to give them their best life. How we define classroom relationships and the dynamics within them should undergo a period of change with groundbreaking insight. It can be the source of so many revolutionizing outcomes that education needs.
Community Engagement Question
In what ways has a teacher helped you grow? How have you used healthy relationships to develop your students?
(2) Sulkowski, Michael L., and Jessica Simmons. “The Protective Role of Teacher-Student Relationships against Peer Victimization and Psychosocial Distress.” Psychology in the Schools, vol. 55, no. 2, 2017, pp. 137–150., doi:10.1002/pits.22086.
(1) Yu, M. V. B., Johnson, H. E., Deutsch, N. L., & Varga, S. M. (2018). “She Calls Me by My Last Name”: Exploring Adolescent Perceptions of Positive Teacher-Student Relationships. Journal of Adolescent Research, 33(3), 332–362. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558416684958