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Ashfield Public School

Ashfield Public School

Every child, every opportunity

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Positive teacher-student relationships

Whilst in conversation on ABC Radio, Pasi Sahlberg, a professor of Education Policy at the Gonski Institute, said that students should love to go to school. This very universally accepted tenet is articulated via NSW Department of Education’s Wellbeing Framework for Schools, a school must develop healthy, happy, successful and productive individuals.

So how do we make our schools the happiest places to be, where quality learning environments enable students to connect, thrive and succeed? Professor Sahlberg said that before all else, successful and happy schools depend on positive relationships between teachers and the students.

Establishing, maintaining and strengthening successful relationships between teachers and students depends on many factors. It includes the ability of the teacher to:

-  have high expectations that every student will rise to the challenge of learning and succeed.

-  implement interesting and well-planned, well-researched lessons that engage students with personalised and differentiated learning and support. 

-  provide clear feedback to each student as to why they are learning something, how it connects to what they already know, what they are expected to do, how to do it and what it looks like when they have succeeded.

-  maintain a safe and well-managed classroom that minimises disruptions, maximises instruction time, and encourages students to engage in learning.

Successful relationships between teachers and students also depend on the teacher:

-  maintaining a high energy level powered by a dynamic force of passion and whole-hearted enthusiasm.

-  telling rich and meaningful stories, and presenting worthwhile and relevant content in an interesting way.

-  using laughter to hold attention and create memorable and joyful lessons.

-  being supportive and encouraging, with conversations, facial expressions, body movements and tone of voice, all combining to clearly indicate the belief in the worth of every individual.  

-  becoming a learner and modelling the learning process to share the wonder of discovering the unknown, the resilience to embrace challenges and make mistakes, the joy of success and the understanding that learning is for everyone.  

Research shows that it is the teachers who are able to create positive teacher-student relationships who are more likely to have above average effects on student achievement and wellbeing. When a student has a good relationship with their teacher they are more willing to have a go at hard work, to risk making mistakes, and to ask for help when they need it.

It is what teachers know, do, and care about which is very powerful in the learning equation. Strong teacher-student relationships shape the way children think and act in school and improve how well they do at school. Indeed, it is the relationship that each child has with their teachers that can make school a very happy place for them to be.