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  • by Blaine Helwig

Classroom Relationship Building – Bridging the Divide of Trust is Paramount!

If several human beings are involved in a common task and a successful outcome is to follow, positive interactions are of paramount importance. Nothing much earth shattering here.

As adolescents mature into adults, the vast majority discover the key to success from collective efforts is highly dependent on firmly establishing relational cooperation and mutually resolving differences.

Elementary schools are an especially demanding challenge in ‘bridging the divide’ of differences since a campus is a daily meeting place of both adults and young children – and the interaction becomes more strenuous when the teacher’s job consists of providing a constant stream of academic tasks as well as behavioral expectations. It is not surprising that tension heightens at times from either a student or a teacher – necessitating the need for a strong mutual and relational bond to positively resolve small conflicts.

Academic content knowledge is essential in teaching

A classroom teacher must possess academic content knowledge. It is an essential requirement in becoming a quality educator at any level. As I have heard many times in my years in public education, “A teacher cannot teach what they do not know.” In the upper elementary grades, an academically well-rounded teacher is required since state standards in science, math, and English grammar are at relatively high content levels. But, regardless of the grade level, all teachers must possess content mastery of their assigned subject matter to hold any hope of imparting and facilitating student learning. Although, novice educators soon discover understanding their subject matter is but half the battle in effectively teaching children.

Can the teacher build positive relationships and motivate students?

Again, content mastery is an absolute requirement to teach any task to another person, and the facilitator must be capable in effectively conveying and facilitating information so that it is clearly understood by the learner. Accomplishing that skill set takes the educator only so far in reaching the end goal. A public school teacher must command the students’ attention and respect – and above all, create and maintain a classroom climate of mutual trust.

Trust. No personal or professional relationship is fundamentally sound without it. And, it is only established over time – shared time. A priority of every classroom teacher on the first day of the school year is creating a healthy and positive student-teacher relationship. Classroom rules and student expectations are definitely conveyed on that first day, but they are not established. Trust is founded only through consistent human interaction in a mutually respectful routine. Unfortunately, if a classroom climate of trust is not established or eroded for one reason or another, student learning and performance outcomes decrease proportionally.

An elementary classroom teacher possessing core content knowledge as well as the ability to build positive relationships is in a position to not only actively engage students but to motivate them. Children will work three times harder for a teacher that is respected than one that is not. A classroom climate of mutual respect yields one of common purpose – the student believes, and for good reason, that their teacher comes to school every day to help them. They trust their teacher – ‘She cares about me and what happens to me. I want to please her, and I will do my best on whatever she asks me to do.’

When a teacher’s content knowledge is clearly articulated and enveloped in a classroom climate of mutual respect and trust, student misbehavior decreases and student learning outcomes soar. There is absolutely no doubt that a master teacher is standing in front of that classroom of students.

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