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The Importance of Good Teacher-Student Relations

One of the main factors in achieving student satisfaction and getting the most out of your lessons is positive teacher-student relations.

While experience and qualifications are essential for successful EFL teaching, one of the main factors in achieving student satisfaction and getting the most out of your lessons is positive teacher-student relations. For students learning a new language, the prospect of facing a classfull of people (or even engaging in lessons on a one-to-one basis) can be daunting to say the least. Students may feel that they are being ‘judged’ by other class members, or feel less confident in their language abilities. Students often rate good relations with their teachers as being of paramount importance. As the teacher, it is your role to ensure that students feel at ease within the classroom from the offset, so they are able to relax, open up and use the language they have learnt effectively in a “no-pressure” environment.

Things to consider when building up good relations with your students:

Positive, relaxed atmosphere in the classroom
This can be achieved in a number of ways, including setting up the classroom so that it is not “teacher-headed” and there is more of a sense of a “group” or “community”. To do this, tables could be arranged so students are seated in a circle and the teacher can join in the circle and encourage communication and group work. This creates a sense of equal leveling within the classroom.

Include your students as much as possible
Avoid at all costs a lesson that is based purely around the teacher and teacher talking time. Try to connect with your students on a more personal level and get to know them as people. Ask about their families, their experiences, their interests and try to develop lessons to include these things and be of interest to them. For example, if you have a class of sporty teenage boys, you could produce lessons around sport to get students engaged. Getting students to share their ideas and become active in lessons is a great way to develop good relations.

Ability to listen
Perhaps one of the most important qualities of a successful teacher is their ability to listen. Students greatly value the time that a teacher devotes to listening to and participating in conversation with them. Once again, this adds to a less formal, more open class atmosphere and leads to student-student and student-teacher interaction.

Relaxed approach to learning
Some teachers become frustrated when a grammatical concept or language structure they have been focusing on for weeks is still being incorrectly implemented by students. Students like to feel that their teacher is fair and non-judgemental and thus it is important to not make an example of students who make errors, but instead to professionally correct them (for example, by highligting the mistake on the board or vocally) or in such a way that the student can laugh at the mistake in question and not feel embarrassed. In the same way, students who correctly use language should be praised and persuaded to develop further. Positive affirmation is always encouraging for students.

Teacher personality
It is vital that students get to see the teacher’s personality. They should feel that the teacher, too, is a “real” and “approachable” person, with a friendly attitude. In the same way a teacher wants to develop a connection with their class, students, too, want to be able to connect with the teacher and get a sense of who they are. Never adopt a pre-rehearsed or robotic style in your lessons. Allow your own personality and enthusiasm for what you do to come through in what you say, how you teach and the topics you chose. Students will value this.

Enthusiasm for teaching
If learners can see that the teacher is not only knowledgeable, but also enthusiastic about teaching and keen to gain whole-class involvement, students will begin to open up and trust the teacher as a key to language leaning and developing.

Written by Sarah Mielnik for EnglishClub | October 2012
Fully CELTA qualified EFL teacher with teaching experience abroad to a wide range of abilities and ages.

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