Initiating and sustaining appropriate professional relationships with young people takes some skill. In order to build mutual trust you need to be able to drop your guard, whilst holding firm to your rules, use a balance of formal and informal conversations and be open to questions while keeping some mystery. It is easy to believe that you are making progress with challenging young people by befriending them and being completely open about your own interests/life outside the classroom. For a short while this approach appears to work. The student is polite, helpful even. Your openness is welcome and the child almost sets you apart from the other staff. Yet when the time comes to work, when learning becomes challenging, when the child begins to doubt their own ability you may find it difficult to provide appropriate support. The relationship that is based on friendship will not necessarily meet the educational needs of the child.
By building foundations for your relationships on friendship you lose your right to draw the lines when managing behaviour. When older colleagues tell new teachers not to smile until Christmas, perhaps they too are aware of this (although some clearly are keen to reinforce a ‘them’ and ‘us’ culture). Children are fascinated by the intricacies of their personal lives. As you build trust by being open take care not to give away too much too soon. By revealing too much too soon you risk losing some of the mystery that makes you interesting to know.
“I saw you in town on Saturday night sir”
“Yes, I was in the Nags Head with my girlfriend. We went there for a meal. I had a a praw cocktail followed by steak and chips and a glass of wine. The service was excellent. My girlfriend didn’t drink as she was driving and we had to be in bed early as we were travelling to see her parents the following…. .”
‘I saw you in town on Saturday night sir”
“Did you? Are you sure it was me? I must take more care to disguise myself! Don’t tell the headteacher or she won’t let me out again”
© Paul Dix 2007