Can teachers be friends?

Darshika Sanghani

I get interesting answers every time I pose this question teachers. Some say a teacher should not get friendly with her students because they will take her for granted. Some feel that there is no harm in a teacher being friendly with her students, only she should know where to draw the line.

I work as a Quality Evaluator, which requires me to conduct student and parent satisfaction surveys as a part of the Institute’s self- valuation process. The response that I get from student surveys is pretty much the same as most students have similar questions –

“Why do teachers yell at us?”
“Why do they try to intimidate us?”
“Why can’t they be our friends?”

I am sure most teachers do not yell intentionally, they do it under stress. It is important to find out what causes this stress. Are the reasons external or internal? Most of the time, the reason is internal. Many a times, teachers are not well-prepared for their class and hence cannot engage the students. If the students get restless, the teacher yells, screams, or punishes.

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Once, a teacher remarked, “How do they expect us to respect them when they do not respect us?” My response – because it is your job to teach them how to respect, and you cannot do that by modelling the reverse. It is all about building relationships with the kids, and setting the expectations high. They will reach those expectations only when they are exposed to good behaviour. In terms of handling stress, I believe that a well-managed classroom will eliminate many stress triggers, because it allows us to do what we do best. Teach.

Some teachers complain that the administration is unsupportive, but one has to remember that stress triggers will always be there, so it is important to deliver methods of handling it. After all, in the end, the students’ performances and achievements give us a sense of accomplishment. It is ok to be friends with your students; it is ok to laugh while we learn. Build a climate inside the classroom, where the kids feel safe and respected. This will make all the administrative issues much easier to handle.

It is not necessary to scream and yell to bring the class under control or to get the attention of your students. A smile can do wonders. You can ignore and prevent unwanted discussions in the class by saying, “I am sure we are capable of more meaningful discussions.”

Some teachers think it is a crime to even smile when students are around. They maintain serious faces throughout a class. I strongly believe that teachers should have a good sense of humor rather than be serious. Statistics proves that a student can focus on a subject for 22 minutes at the most. Hence, the challenge here is to keep them engaged after those 22 minutes. A smile on a teacher’s face motivates her students to participate in discussions and hence increase their span of concentration.

Students should not be discouraged from asking questions. Many a times their questions appear to be silly. However, what may be silly or nonsense to us may be very important to them. If a student is hesitant, a teacher can always ask the child to discuss the question offline (after class). Never humiliate or blatantly criticize a student for the question he/she asks. Students are vulnerable and can be emotionally hurt if the criticism is not made properly. A friendly teacher offers constructive criticism, and encourages students to take criticism in their stride and learn lessons from it.

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. – Henry Adams

Source: http://penningmythoughts.com/ ddmomsweblog/category/congrats-thankyou/.

I have often heard teachers commenting that to understand a student one should step into the student’s shoes, but how many of us remember to take off our slippers before stepping into their shoes.

A teacher who can combine the guidance of a teacher and understanding of a friend, will always be respected by her students and also prove to be a better educator. I sign off on the note, be friendly with students and do not befriend them.

The author has been an educationist for the past nine years and has taught Cambridge and IB curriculum at various levels. Currently she is working as a Quality Evaluation Officer at Indus Training and Research Institute. She can be reached at [email protected].

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