What students expect from their teachers

What students expect from their teachers

A pessimistic teacher can never create a well-behaved classroom, optimism always succeeds, asserts Srijaya Char.

When we talk of students, we are immediately connected to teachers. It is true that teachers have a responsibility to conduct themselves ethically and equitably amongst their students not only in the school, college and classrooms but also in social life. Teachers who are respected are those that make reasonable efforts to eliminate bias in their treatment of their students.

The classroom environment may be conducive to learning; but if their emotional relationship with the teachers is not satisfactory, their academic achievement takes a downward plunge.  They are likely to suffer in social skills as well. What is it that creates a healthy relationship between students and teachers? The most important aspect of a healthy relationship for a teacher is to be ‘fair’ with all the students.

It is true that students start liking a particular subject just because of the teacher. It is also true that students come to despise certain subjects that previously interested them just because of a change of a teacher. When some teachers fail to recognize particular students, they ‘tune out’ and believe that the teacher does not expect anything from them.

A pessimistic teacher can never create a well-behaved classroom. Optimism succeeds! Pessimists always try to control others. If a teacher wields power unilaterally and tries to control students demanding total obedience, the students rebel. An optimistic teacher on the other hand demonstrates control by listening to what the students want to say. It is a good practice for a teacher to lead the students with her ‘ear’ and not her ‘mouth.’

Students resent a negative approach by the teacher. A positive approach is essential for motivation. Optimistic language is to use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when you want them to listen to the teacher. If a teacher observes a student talking during the progress of a lesson, instead of shouting at him/her it would be appropriate on the part of the teacher to make a request and say, ‘I’ll give you a lot of time to talk as soon as this instruction is over, can you please be silent for now?”

This will be more effective; and once the students settled down, there is nothing wrong if the teacher says “Thank you.” It provides immediate positive reinforcement to all the students.  Research has shown that people who are thanked by authority figures are more likely to cooperate, feel valued and exhibit self-confidence. Students resent teachers who never give them a choice. There is nothing wrong in giving them choices about their homework, assignments and how they are grouped in a team etc. If some thought is given to these it results in higher levels of student management and achievement.

An example

While teaching English to standard 5 some years ago, when the teacher had to set a question paper for the final examination, she told the students that there were totally 10 lessons and 5 poems in the text that were handled for the year. She clearly told them she did not intend to include the whole text for preparing the question paper. She would conduct a survey as to which of the lessons and poems the students liked the most and would set a question paper based on their choices. This involved voting. She prepared a ballot box and instructed the children that they would write the names of 5 lessons and 3 poems that they would like to study for the final examination. Each of them should list them out on a paper and insert it in the ballot box. She would then make a survey of all the lists and come out with a final list of 5 Lessons and 3 Poems and write them on the black board. The students would make a thorough study of only those that got the majority of votes by the students.

Of course it became a tough task for the teacher; but it was enjoyable. The teacher not only came to know the kind of lessons and poems that the students opted for; but also got a general idea of their likes and dislikes. Surprisingly majority of the students had mentioned the same lessons and poems and it became easy for the teacher to prepare the final list that was selected. The teacher was over whelmed when she found that the students were tremendously happy that their opinions mattered. They thanked her profusely for including the lessons and poems that they had selected.
The reason for narrating this incident here is to bring home to the readers that when students’ opinions are respected and taken into account they get a sense of elation that makes them feel important. What is important to the teacher is to gain their confidence. The process of involving students in choice is to help them in the thinking process.

Positivity

Another important aspect of teacher-student relationship is for the teacher to be careful not to use sarcasm. When a teacher wants to elevate herself to a position of superiority it ‘puts off’ the students. By being sarcastic a teacher is causing the students to dislike her. Sarcasm and negativity will never help in improving the behavior of students. It creates only counter negativity that the teacher needs to fight everyday with the students.

Alternatively, if the teachers’ attitude towards her students is positive, it gives a leverage to influence them to behave as the teacher desires. If there is no resentment from the students it becomes symbolic of the way in which you have influenced them. Classroom management becomes effective in a positive atmosphere.

A significant body of research indicates that “academic achievement and student behavior as influenced by the relationship that exists between teachers and students”.

Students’ version

When students were asked to make a list of what made them resent ‘teacher behaviour’ they did.

Topmost on the list was ‘showing partiality to select students’.  Next came ‘emotional harassment’ further it was ‘I am the boss here’ kind of attitude by the teacher, ‘being totally bookish’ and ‘thinking that the students are totally morons’ etc. On the whole students normally resent a teacher who is high handed and vindictive. Students will never forget teachers that make comments that subtly discourage them.

Teachers and their comments

One student narrated a story. In spite of him being a bright and intelligent student he was always criticized for his handwriting. He always seemed to get lower grades than his contemporaries whom he knew were not up to the mark. Teachers’ comments were always about his handwriting.  In an engineering college now, he seems to be doing very well and tells me that most of his younger days and teenage were wasted because of his resentment against some teachers.

Many teachers make comments that may seem completely innocuous to them; but it hurts students. The hurtful remarks leave a scar for a lifetime. I agree that part of the job of the teacher is to give students the kind of feedback that will help them learn and grow.

Teachers must do this in a way that encourages the students to continue trying to overcome their weakness without being hurt. It is a known fact that some students are more sensitive than others.

It becomes mandatory on the part of the teacher to understand such children and give them constructive advice which is not ‘hurtful’.

If teachers want their students to gain from their corrections; they need to understand that being ‘negative’ will have a contrary effect.

It brings down their self-esteem and makes them feel hope less. Instead, if teachers use ‘positive’ comments, the students will feel that the teacher is  really concerned about them. The correction should be aimed at the work of the students and not at the students.

All highly admired teachers are those that have never hurt the feelings of the students. These teachers will be remembered always and they remember the relationship that they had with such teachers even after leaving the portals of the school or college.

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