Developing relationships within schools between staff and students

There was a time in my career when I was going through a bad break up. Usually I was good at separating personal issues from my work but it was a vulnerable time for me. I had a registration /tutor group at the time and I’m sure they had to started to notice that I wasn’t myself. Valentine’s Day came around and it was time for me to go and start the lesson with my class. As I walked into the room, they had a massive bunch of flowers on the table for me and a card. I opened the card which was from them all and it read… we will appreciate you always. This simple gesture literally made me cry… another thing that I don’t make a habit of at work. Lol. I was so overwhelmed by the kindness of these teenagers. Some of whom I would frequently be in disagreements with regarding their behaviour. When I eventually left that role, they gifted me a scrap book. They had all wrote messages in the book and I was really shocked at some of them. One even said although we have had our disagreements you taught me that my way is not always the right way’. And I thought wow, the life lessons I gave to them actually sunk in. We both learnt from each other during the time I was at the school and they had taught me to be more patience and how to navigate complex issues with young people. And I shared my knowledge with them, sometimes it was a lesson in CV writing and how to assess your own skills. And other days it was supporting them while going through tough friendship problems.

During my time at secondary school, I developed a close bond with a few of my teachers. I suffered from a traumatic experience when I was in year 9 and my tutor, English teacher and Sociology teacher were made aware of this. Not only did they support me through this journey, they also helped to build me back up and realise my full potential. I felt comfortable to approach them when I was feeling vulnerable. Fast forward 14 years and I still keep in contact with the same teachers and they continue to offer me words of wisdom to this day.

Reflecting on this made me think about the relationships between school staff and their students. It has literally been drilled into my head that a gesture like that is hugely inappropriate and that we as staff must try to maintain our professional distance at all times. Don’t get me wrong, we need a certain degree of protection as staff and also so do the students. But at what point did we as a society stop prioritising our children’s emotional needs and need to form relationships. All throughout early schooling, teachers play quite a nurturing role in their students’ lives. They would certainly put their arm around a crying child. But what we see currently is an education system that is quite frankly, dominated by the academy institutions.

Children need support and stability and as teachers and school staff we spend a lot of their time around them. When will we start to support healthy attachments between school students and staff? Schools have high staff turnover which makes it harder for the students to build relationships with the multiple staff they come into contact with. When will we start to treat students as children instead of professional colleagues? I do believe that if staff and students were able to build a more meaningful relationship then students would have more accountability for their actions towards them. 

Schools are fundamental to the development of young people and also families. We need to focus on building a system that supports the connection between schools and their students. The question is…. how do we achieve t

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