Do you remember your first teacher at primary school? What was he/she like? Did you like him/her? Perhaps it was him/her who made you like or detest school and studies. When a child goes to primary school it is highly important for parents to be sure that their child’s relationships with the first teacher will start in the right direction and the child feels comfortable when he/she is interacting with the teacher. Teacher’s ability to contact well with his students is considered to be a significant aspect to investigate when choosing a teacher for a child, because positive connections enhance a student’s sense of belonging and self value. Probably, child’s tense relationships with his first teacher may cause huge problems with his subsequent education in the future at high school and university. However, the reality is not as pleasant as we would like it to be. Nowadays it is a common thing that children and teachers from the very first grade at school have big relationship problems. As nowadays bad relationships between students and teachers have become a normal thing in primary grades, school administration needs to be concerned about the problem to identify the main reasons why this happens. There are a few things they could do to stop the growth of this tendency, which can unfavorably affect students’ future lives.
As American Psychological Association [APA] reports, each year approximately 253,000 teachers at primary schools are threatened with injury in the U.S.A. and almost half of them are physically attacked by students (as cited in Pytel, 2008, para.1). Actually there is an array of reasons and symptoms of student-teacher tense relationships, but here are presented the most often met and prevalent. When there is some tension between the teacher and the student it can be immediately noticed by other people. The first indication of this problem is when the teacher and the student are often arguing with each other and during these arguments they try to insult each other. Secondly, sometimes when the teacher and the student have bad relationships, students refuse to do home tasks and by doing this they want to show to the teacher that they don’t respect him. Another symptom which points out the problem is when both the teacher and the student try to let each other down in front of the class. Moreover, in some cases when the teacher and the student are in bad terms they may even threaten each other physically. There are several reasons why these things might happen.
One of them is child’s poor academic performance. When the student shows bad results, it may irritate the teacher and lead to his negative relationship with this child. Another possible reason of this problem is student’s constant bad behavior during the class time. Bad discipline decreases lesson’s productivity and the teacher doesn’t manage to do all the planned work because he is always interrupted by some students. As a result, a serious tension appears between them. The third reason may be students’ dependence on their reputation in class. Children at primary schools often try to establish the importance of their personality in the class community. Therefore they want to be distinguished from others and to stand out against a background of other children. And the only way they find to achieve this is to drive the teacher out of his wits and to go against the rules. The first possible solution to ease tense relationships between teachers and primary school students is that school administration can apply “Child-centered play therapy” [CCPT].
Play Therapy sessions are usually held in a playroom that has a range of carefully selected toys and materials (Benedict, 2006, para.3). In one session there can be as many as 2-5 children interacting. Also he added that the therapist can also observe the way the child is interacting with other children. In addition, the therapist will be able to monitor the child’s play with certain toys in order to determine his concentration and source of any stress. According to Benedict, each toy and each style of enjoying them represents a different emotion and feeling.Benedict explains that in the playroom, the child can express feelings, thoughts, experiences and behaviors through play. Toys are used as words. The play is a way in which a child is actually able to demonstrate to you what is happening inside of him without using words. Also, Benedict asserts that this knowledge is vital to the therapist in determining the direction of the therapy process, and the role of a play therapy practitioner is to interpret this language. Careful observation and analysis of child’s behavior during the play therapy sessions allows the play therapist to provide the helpful guidance necessary to resolve a child’s problems and define how to build good relationships with him.
The first advantage of this solution is that children after completing these sessions learn how to develop positive relationships with others and to understand the role of others in their lives (Meldrum, 2009, p.50). Also Meldrum added that another advantage of this solution is that Play Therapy teaches children how to control their emotions and pull themselves together. A study held in USA in 2005 showed that almost 70% of teachers reported significant improvements in students’ behavior and discipline during the lessons after the CCPT. However, the weakness of this solution is that this effect is not long-lasting. According to Meldrum, about 60% of surveyed teachers claimed that after approximately half a year their relationships with these children again became bad. There is also such a big disadvantage of this solution as huge investments needed to implement these sessions. American Psychological Association in 2003 spent almost 300000$ in American St. Minnesota School to apply these therapies. Considering the fact that the effect of this therapy lasts for only about six months, these funding seem too large to be invested on it. But overall, Child Centered Play Therapy can be an original and effective way to ease tension between students and teachers.
The second possible solution to achieve an improvement in lessening the tension between teachers and primary school students is that school administration can conduct special consultations for each teacher. These consultations are conducted for teachers individually with qualified psychologists 1 time per weak, where they can “unburden their hearts” in order to get rid of strain. The main purpose of these consultations is “to support teachers in dealing with individual student or classroom concerns” (Alderman, 2004, p.3). Probably, the biggest advantage of this solution is that it gives teachers an opportunity to relax and speak out all their problems with problem students, and after these sessions they seem to treat these students calmer and less stressed. Alderman claimed that “teachers identified contact and listening from the consultant as the most helpful factors of consultation.” However, teachers preferred to handle problems in the classroom without assistance from a consultant. In fact, according to Alderman, teachers rated consulting with school counselors as their fourth choice of effective intervention in managing student problems, following “the interventions of handling the problem on their own, consulting with the principal, and consulting with another teacher” (p.3).
One of the biggest disadvantages of this solution is that it consumes teachers’ time. In the research almost eighty five percent of surveyed teachers complained that they suffer from lack of free time and that they don’t want to spend it also on consultations. The second disadvantage is that the effect of these consultations on teacher-students relationships is negligible. According to Meldrum, only one thirds of surveyed teachers noticed improvements in their relationships with the students, while other tutors didn’t feel any changes at all. Another disadvantage of this solution is that it requires huge investments to implement the consultations. American Psychological Association in 2003 spent almost 250000$ in American St. Minnesota School to apply these consultations there. However, considering the fact that it helped only 30% of surveyed teachers, it seems fair to assume that it isn’t worth such big funding. But overall, consultations with teachers may be an effective solution in terms of tense teacher-student relationships.
And the last effective solution to help teachers and students at primary schools to build good relationships is that teachers can conduct special classes where they can discuss all the relationship problems existing between them and children. These classes are held at the end of learning day once a week. During these classes teachers ask children about the things they aren’t satisfied with at school and conduct different kinds of surveys, where children anonymously answer the questions concerning their relationships with the teacher and classmates (Jones, 2006, p, 32). He added that questions are compiled by the teachers themselves, so they are able to get to know each student closer from different sides of their nature. Moreover, these questionnaires may be about children’s attitude to the teacher, and as the surveys are held absolutely anonymously, they may know lots of interesting facts about their mistakes that they make in terms of students. Jones (p.33) considers that teachers may create stronger connection with students if they know exactly what they make wrong in tense of interaction with the students. Also, he added that these kinds of questionnaires are the core thing which can serve as a “bridge” leading to the children’s “secret corners of their souls” (p.33).
One of the advantages about this solution is that in comparison with other solutions it doesn’t require big amounts of money. Another benefit of this solution is high level of effectiveness of the solution. According to the research, about seventy percent of surveyed teachers admitted improvements in their relationships with the students after conducting these classes (Jones, 2006, p.34). Moreover, almost two third of them found these surveys as the easiest way to lessen tension with children, following the individual consultations with students and cooperating with students’ parents. However, one of the drawbacks of this solution is that these classes considerably consume teachers’ and students’ time. According to Jones (p.35), these classes last for one to two hours in average.
Considering the fact that teachers also need to spend some time to prepare for these classes, this solution seems inappropriate for teachers. Jones also added that another disadvantage of this solution is that teachers lose the interest in these classes after several realizations of these lessons, In other words, the effectiveness of these classes significantly decreases in time. As about seventy percent of surveyed teachers claimed, after approximately three months of conducting these lessons, teachers stopped to prepare for these classes at all (Jones, 2006. p.36). As a result, effectiveness of these classes significantly decreased after several weeks. But overall, probably the arrangement of special classes with students seems the best solution to the problem of tense relationships between them. Overall, the problem of tense relationships between students and teachers at primary schools is fairly complex and deserves to be discussed and thought over.