Another important tool in your classroom-management toolkit is the skill of building good relationships. After all, without other people to interact with, your own sense of self-worth and self-identity tend to diminish. American psychologist William Braxton Irvine puts it best in his book On Desire: Why We Want What We Want: “You might acquire an expansive wristwatch, only to realize that without other people to meet, you don't need to know what time it is.”
Simply put, you need people — young people whom you can teach, parents who will support your efforts, colleagues who will help you in a crunch, administrators who will go to bat for you with unruly parents, a superintendent who supports your staff, a school board that understands and rewards your staff's dedication, and a community that rallies behind your staff when necessary.
You get help from other people by being helpful to others yourself. Building professional relationships is like building bridges to carry you safely across turbulent waters.
If you're wondering what kind of relationship teachers share with the general public, a 2002 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) poll found that the British public rated teaching as the third most highly respected profession in Britain. Regarding teachers' relationships with students, a 2005 Time magazine poll found that 81 percent of American teens declared they “got along well” with their teachers!
Always begin your relationship-building efforts with your students. They're the ones you interact with more than any other individual or group. Address them formally but pleasantly to maintain cordial yet professional relationships. Also, limit physical contact only to that which is necessary and appropriate to head off any misunderstandings. Conduct any student-teacher conferences with courtesy, and without raised voices or snide remarks.
And try to model good manners and considerate behavior for your students at all times — even when you're boiling mad, and even when you're dealing out discipline. Show your students you want to have good relationships with them by praising them constantly, inquiring after their friends and families, and remembering birthdays and important details in their lives.
And as far as all other groups are concerned — parents, administrators, teachers' associations, etc. — just use the common sense you've acquired over a lifetime in learning how to deal with people. Consider how you want to be treated, then treat others that way.
Do you want a child to scream at you? Then don't scream at a child (unless your gut instinct tells you there's no choice — if the kid is about to play in traffic, for example). Do you want parents personally insulting you? Then don't personally insult parents; find ways to communicate with them.
Building relationships is about earning trust, helping others, and manifesting courtesy, kindness, dependability, and honesty. In subsequent chapters, you'll learn how building relationships actually means building a solid foundation for a good career and a fulfilling life.