Teachers today find themselves in a strange predicament. In a rapidly changing world, the role of educators is fluctuating drastically and exponentially. Over the years the boundaries that govern the student-teacher relationship too has undergone tremendous change. Gone are the days of the guru-shishya system or a system in which the teachers were viewed as the exalted providers of knowledge and information. This important and yet strange relationship has captivated attention internationally and has been reviewed, discussed and debated at various educational forums.
Just this evening, I was Skyping with a friend in India and discussing how important it is for teachers to build rapports and nurture friendly attitudes and connections. Surprisingly she happened to mention that her school is currently discouraging teachers from discussing ‘non-academic’ issues with the pupils. What a bizarre idea!
That’s when it struck me; the irony of this entire scenario is this: In a world where teaching is becoming increasingly professional every day, teachers are required to establish boundaries and implement rules that govern their relationships with their pupils. However, establishing stringent codes of conduct seems contradictory to the teaching process. It leads to impersonal connections, a lack of trust and a distance between teachers and children which is probably the exact opposite of what our pupils need.
Granted that there are certain ethical boundaries that teachers and students must respect, I understand that completely. Personally however, I think that the problem is not with the child or the teacher but with the system. If a student is comfortable with his/ her teacher and trusts them enough to confide in them and enjoys the freedom to talk, discuss, share ideas and disagree even then there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s this system of perceived inappropriateness that will teach our children otherwise and discourage them from turning to us for guidance when they need it the most.
But even as I read this last paragraph back, I’m left questioning. How much of this familiarity can be considered OK or acceptable? Who defines what OK is? What’s OK for me may not be OK for somebody else. Often there are those teachers who have open rapports with their pupils because of their own cultural backgrounds and their own attitudes. But that’s not the same for everybody.
I’m often told that I give my pupils too much freedom. That’s right, I do and here’s why. I strongly believe that teachers who foster positive relationships with their students create classroom environments more conducive to learning and meeting the children’s academic as well as emotional needs. Both matter, and in my opinion the latter matters a little bit more.
One of the quotations I love most and quote often is by Teddy Roosevelt “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” – applies to children as well. If teachers today develop closer relationships with students, the bond that is forged between them serves as a powerful connector through which both knowledge and genuine care can be filtered down. In my eyes that can never be a bad thing.
This is just my personal philosophy and it governs everything I do. So far (6 and half years to be precise) it’s proved to be a successful game plan and has kept my classes disciplined and fun and most importantly teaches my children that I have high expectations of them which I know they can and will rise to in spite of my more informal and casual approach. Some people I know still feel that my approach leaves me vulnerable but I respectfully disagree. Being open and approachable for my students works wonders for me as a teacher and I don’t intend to change that no matter what the experts have to say!