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The importance of relationships – PP36

The topic of the week is The importance of relationships.


276508320155a958db14zPaul begins by pointing out that it’s not possible to have transformational relationships with every child you teach – rather, we should concentrate on those learners we can have a long-term positive impact on.

Paul recalls his earliest experiences in teaching where he found many learners who weren’t interested in any of the strategies and techniques for behaviour management until they had a productive relationship with him. Paul found himself going through the same mantra time after time:

I care about you, I’m going to work with you and I’m not going away.

The children weren’t used to this and wanted a guarantee that Paul wasn’t going to leave like so many other adults had done in their lives previously. None of the the behaviour management techniques worked until this basis of trust was established.

After the establishment of his determination to build a relationship based on mutual trust, Paul could move on to creating more differentiated relationships with individuals.

It’s very important to define the relationship straight away – to establish the parameters and boundaries of the relationship. For example:

  • you can’t be their friend but of course you can be friendly
  • you can’t keep a secret for them but they can come and talk to you (because of safeguarding considerations)

Relationships that are worthwhile take time – there is a ‘drip, drip, drip effect’. Teachers who build great relationships with children do most of that work outside the classroom. They say hello in t he corridor, they sit and have lunch with them, they chat with them in the playground. These informal opportunities tend to build up over time.


People don’t change in a day or in a week, it takes time. Teachers who go out of their way to build up emotional capital with students outside the classroom begin to develop strong relationships – and that’s what truly effective behaviour management is built on.


Don’t use relationships as levers

Sometimes teachers build relationships and then use them in a slightly destructive way. They try and use the good relationship as a lever to force learners to comply with every instruction. They almost ‘throw their relationship down on the floor like a white glove’ as if to say that if the learner does not comply then they can’t continue to have those discussions in the lunch queue. The emotional capital you build up is far too important to throw away every time there is a little wobble in class – it shouldn’t be sacrificed in the daily ups and downs of behaviour management.


For a lot of learners, the relationship you have with them in school is a counter-balance to what is going on outside.

Creative Commons image: benjaminasmith

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