The teacher-student relationship impacts every aspect of the educational experience. When students don’t feel safe, respected, or truly known by their teacher, they are less likely to invest and engage in their education. Conversely, when teachers feel distanced from or distrusted by their students, it’s nearly impossible to muster the enthusiasm to walk into the classroom each day, let alone instill motivation or investment in our students.
During my own teaching career I’ve been fortunate enough to have the time and opportunity to get to know my students and their educational needs well. I taught English, Latin, and writing in middle school over three successive years, and given this much time, I was able to get to know my students well and respond to their particular emotional and educational needs.
However, I recently began teaching high school writing in an inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, where students come and go as insurance and treatment dictates, and due to the strict confidentiality guidelines, I am not allowed to share any personal information with them. I can’t ask about their lives, and they are not allowed to know anything about mine. I sensed when I signed the confidentiality agreement that this restriction would affect my teaching, but I had no idea just how much. I have struggled to find ways to connect with my students within the rules, but I still feel as if I am teaching in a hermetically sealed bubble. For the first time in my life, my teaching just isn’t connecting with my students.