Why Relationships and Communication Should Matter to Every Teacher

building relationships and communication
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What is the most essential quality a teacher must possess?  Ask one hundred different people and you're likely to get varying responses.  Classroom management skills, content knowledge, and the willingness to learn and grow are sure to be high on the list, but do those trump the ability to build relationships and communicate with others? In my experience, the best teachers, the truly gifted teachers will always possess those two qualities even though they may be lacking in other areas.

 

If you do not like to work with people, then teaching is not the right profession for you.  As a teacher, you will work with many different sub-groups on a regular basis. Though the students are obviously the most important, you must also be able to work well with parents, other teachers, school leaders, school personnel, and community members. A teacher must have a healthy relationship with each of the sub-groups in order to maximize their effectiveness.  Ignoring or having a divisive relationship with any of the moving parts can be detrimental to the goals a teacher has.

Students

As a teacher, your students should always be your number one priority. At the very least a teacher must begin building a healthy rapport with their students within the first few minutes of the first day of class. However, the very best teachers when given the opportunity (this is not always a possibility) begin planting these seeds in advance of actually having them in class.

  They take the time to get to know future students in the hallways, in the cafeteria, or at school-wide events. Doing so will make the transition into your classroom much easier.

The classroom is often the center of a teacher’s universe, but we must remember to expand those parameters for our students.

  The best teachers are attuned to what is happening with their students outside of school. They are empathetic, understanding, and forgiving and balance those things with structure, respect, and high expectations in class.

When we are teaching, we must be adept communicators having the ability to frame the content in such a way that students can understand it. A teacher can overcome a deficiency in content knowledge with hard work and great communication. However, a teacher, who is a content expert, yet lacks the ability to communicate will rarely succeed.  Students need teachers who are able to teach the same concepts in more than one way and break down the learning process into its simplest forms.

Parents

A major component of developing and maintaining relationships is communication. For teachers, communication must be proactive, genuine, and a healthy balance of the good and the bad shifted significantly more towards the good. Parents should not dread a call from their child’s teacher. Instead, they should look forward to a call from the teacher because it mostly positive news concerning their child’s progress. Teachers may have to look hard, but they can always find something positive about any student.

It is important to note that communication and relationships go hand-in-hand. You cannot have a healthy relationship if you do not communicate.  Never before in the history of education has communication been easier with the advent of social media, texting, and e-mail.  These communication tools cannot be ignored by teachers as they both an efficient and quick means to communicate regularly with parents.

Establishing healthy relationships with parents ultimately makes you a better teacher. Once you have the parents in your corner, then the students will typically fall in line.  When parents trust you, they do not doubt you or say things at home that may undermine your authority. It is more natural for some parents to build rapport with their child’s teacher than it is for others. As such, teachers must respectfully seek out opportunities to establish some type of positive relationship with even the most reluctant parents.

Other Teachers

Teachers are kindred spirits in that they can relate to the struggles and situations that a colleague is going through. Those who have never taught do not truly understand the demands of this profession.  Teachers should always be willing to share best practices with other teachers, lean on each other during tough times, and rely on each other for advice.  In any working environment there are going to be those times that we do not always see eye to eye on everything with everyone. Teaching is no different, but teachers must be willing to lay aside their differences and work things out because failing to do so cannot help but be detrimental to your effectiveness.

School Leaders

Teachers must also have ongoing, collaborative relationships with school leaders.  School leaders can be the ultimate resource and support system for a teacher.  Their experience and ability to see an issue through a different lens can be invaluable for teachers.  Building a rapport with school leaders entails working with their demanding schedule, having conversations about best practices, and being willing to seek and take their advice. Teachers must be willing to take constructive criticism and listen to any advice that a school leader may offer. At times teachers must be willing to ask tough questions and challenge the status quo respectfully.  Teachers must also be willing to self-report mistakes, make changes they are asked to make, and step into various roles when asked.

Support Personnel

Teachers and school leaders receive the most attention for what they do in a school, but without a quality support staff, they would often fail at reaching their goals.

  Teachers should always show these support personnel how much they appreciate them.  Keeping and maintaining the daily operations of a school extends far beyond the classroom and it is the support personnel which makes these things happen quietly behind the scenes.  Building relationships and communicating your appreciation with staff members frequently can have a lot of value for a teacher. Each support employee offers an area of expertise or resources that can benefit teachers significantly. Failing to utilize them as a resource limits what you can do.

Community Members

Teachers must not forget to engage the community in which we teach. They are often more invested in what is going on at the school than we sometimes think.  After all, we are developing many of the future leaders and members of the community. They want to see the school succeed because a win for the school is a win for the community. Teachers who communicate with and build relationships within the community can reap valuable rewards.  Many businesses and community members are willing to donate money for classroom supplies or projects or volunteer their time to assist in areas such as tutoring.