Building Positive Relationships
Safety and Security
Most students need a strong sense of comfort and safety from both physical and emotional abuse and criticism in their classrooms. Teachers need to have enough order that students do not intimidate, bully, insult, or overly criticize each other. You achieve this sense of positive order by teaching and developing positive social skills. Students do well when they believe that they can depend on the teacher and their classmates. This comfort is achieved by rules and regulations in the classroom that are sensible and consistently enforced. Teachers build a trusting relationship by helping and encouraging students and by stopping inappropriate behavior, such as racial and gender harassment.
At all ages, students are very sensitive to what they perceive as unequal treatment. When students believe that their teacher favors some students over others, conflict grows in the classroom, and their trust in the teacher declines.
In secondary schools, teachers have more students and therefore often know them less well. Secondary teachers place more emphasis on teaching subject matter, and some tend to place less emphasis on serving as coach, mentor, counselor, or cultural mediator. The lack of opportunity to develop personal relationships and the variety of teacher and student personalities create alienation. Students want to be listened to and respected as human beings with wants, desires, fears, and emotions (Valenzuela, 1999).
Over the years, students need to develop a strong sense of security, and they should have the opportunity to develop a trusting personal relationship with some teachers and students. For some students, the school’s teams, clubs, and student government projects contribute to this important sense of belonging. Each student should encounter at least one teacher or counselor who is interesting and motivating each day. If this does not occur, the school will lose the student. Without positive personal relationships, schools become warehouses for students rather than learning centers.
Teachers and students without a sense of security develop symptoms of stress, anxiety, and alienation. They resist change to a multicultural paradigm. When schools are full of interethnic conflict, bullying, or sexual harassment, the violent environment prevents many students from learning. Human relations lessons and strategies, such as those found in the curriculum The Wonderful World of Difference (B’nai B’rith Antidefamation League, 1996), help to build classrooms where students feel safe and comfortable.
© ______ 2010, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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