“Be relentlessly optimistic. Every day is a new day, and one which will bring challenge and opportunity, so be resilient – day in, day out!”
So says Andy Samways, director of the research and teaching schools at the Unity Schools Partnership, a group of 19 primary and secondary schools in Suffolk.
He believes that it is “mutual respect” that underpins the very best relationships in his schools.
“Fostering strong relationships takes time, commitment and authenticity on the teacher’s part. It’s about showing a genuine interest in your pupils, doing your best to connect with them… taking time to notice each individual, and being fair and consistent.
In all schools, teachers need to remember that “every child brings their own real-life challenges, issues and emotions, which will be influencing them in so many ways before they can even get to school”, he says.
“Celebrate successes in all shapes and forms – capitalise on the power of a good-news phone call home to the family or a congratulatory letter championing the struggles and successes associated with learning.”
For Kate Atkins, headteacher of Rosendale Primary School and chief executive of the Great North Wood Education Trust in south-east London, developing trust is the most important factor in relationship building.
“Students need to feel safe within their learning environment. This can be created by having consistent systems within the class, regular routines and a sense of fairness,” she says.
To this end, the school uses the Kagan Cooperative Learning system, designed to ensure that students get equal time to talk and participate in lessons.
“Finally, with some students you need to take time to develop a relationship with them,” Atkins says.
“This has meant that our teachers have played table tennis or basketball with students at lunchtime in order to develop a more positive relationship.
“Time to talk, away from the pressures of the classroom, can be hugely helpful.”