Relationships can be hard. They are dynamic, there can be communication breakdowns and misunderstandings, and philosophies and beliefs don’t always align. There are also times when relationships are strained by outside factors that have little to do with the people involved.
As a teacher, it is critical to maintain positive relationships with others. When they get rocky or go downhill, there should be a quick attempt to turn it around and mend the relationship. Whether it is a student, parent, or colleague, broken relationships not only cause stress, they often waste time and drain energy. If you have a relationship that needs fixing, here are some guidelines to help you:
Challenge 1: Relationships With Students
This comes first since it is the most critical item on the list. Without a strong relationship with students, teachers will be ineffective. There can be many reasons for this relationship to become broken or damaged. Maybe the student has behaved in a disrespectful way, maybe the teacher has communicated in a way the student felt threatened by, or maybe there is a personality conflict that isn’t anyone’s fault, but needs to be addressed.
How to Fix It: In order to help fix the relationship, it is important to listen in a non-confrontational, calm, and non-threatening situation. Set aside adequate time and make sure both the teacher and student are in a calm state and ready to listen. The teacher should seek to understand where the student is coming from. Listening to understand does not end with, “Well, now let me tell you what I think.” Simply listen to the student and try to see how the information can help to mend the relationship and prevent future issues.
Challenge 2: Relationships With Parents
Broken relationships with parents often stem from a lack of understanding on one end or the other. Assumptions can be made and the relationship can go south quickly—if this happens, it has the potential to harm the student’s learning and educational experience.
How to Fix It: OutLAST them. The acronym LAST is a great way to help improve a rocky relationship with a parent. First, you listen. Hear what the parent is saying and try to understand where they are coming from. Second, apologize. This doesn’t mean admitting fault, just simply saying, “I’m sorry that you feel this way,” or “I’m sorry that this has happened.” Third, solve. This is where the teacher can try to help find a solution for the future with the parent’s help. Finally, thank them for their time. These steps are helpful because they come in order and can act like a checklist in your mind. The process helps to defuse situations that could become major issues and helps to start to mend relationships if they are in need of repair.
Challenge 3: Relationships With Other Teachers
Schools cannot function effectively if teachers are not collaborative and cooperative. Because school environments are stressful—and both time and resources are often limited—strain can be placed on the relationships between teachers. If teams aren’t working well together, the relationships need to be fixed.
How to Fix It: Find the root of the conflict. There are probably differences in philosophy and values when it comes to conflicts between teachers. During a calm period when there is adequate time (which is often hard to come by), teachers should talk about the root causes of their beliefs. When we seek to understand one another, we are on the path to creating better teams and stronger relationships.
Challenge 4: Relationships With Classified Staff
If a teacher has a para in their room, there is a chance they spend as much time with them as with family members. This relationship is one that is too often strained because of a lack of clear expectations and communication. Typically, there are an abundance of student needs in the room—teachers don’t want to get stuck with adult needs becoming an issue as well.
How to Fix It: If this relationship isn’t great, clear expectations are usually the issue. Each teacher has different needs and wants from a para, and each para has a different comfort level for different tasks. The teacher has to lead the process and let the para know clearly how to help around the classroom. If there are discipline issues, communicate so that there is no confusion on the students’ end about what to expect. The teacher should also keep the para’s supervisor in the loop (if that is a different person other than the teacher).
We all hope that relationships stay positive and undramatic, but if they don’t, these tips can help you to “right the ship” and get things moving in a good direction. In the end, ensuring these relationships are strong leads to better schools—and better outcomes for our students.
Check out some of our other great blogs covering relationships in school:
- Building Positive Relationships Systematically
- Classroom Connections: How Well Do You Know Your Students?
- Classroom Management Tips
- How to Build Positive Relationships at a New School
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