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Does a teacher’s attitude towards students and education matter?

T. Mahmud || risingbd.com

Published: 15:00, 17 April 2021  
Does a teacher’s attitude towards students and education matter?

Yes, it does. I don’t think a lot of us have a solid understanding of how important the student-teacher relationship is. As long as the students are passing and achieving good grades, there isn’t much to think about, right? Wrong.

A lot of us seem to have this mistaken belief that a teacher’s influence and contributions are limited to school settings, but this is actually false. Teachers play a very important role in society whether we want to acknowledge this or not. In fact, they help create a foundation for future generations to thrive in their communities. After the home, a school is typically the second place where children’s personalities and academic and social performances are nurtured and developed as they grow older. Their school teachers are the individuals who help these children progress in those areas. In order to effectively instill strong moral values into the students, as well as supporting their intellectual development, the teachers themselves have to develop positive personality values. This is because they become role models for their students by the way they conduct themselves.

Teachers’ attitudes have been associated with the quality of education they provide. What this means is that the skills and characteristics needed in order to become a good teacher also happen to be the same factors that define a good education. Among the positive traits that a good teacher should possess include critical thought and problem-solving, knowledge of the subject being taught, humility, being aware of students’ needs, and strong communication skills. The opposite of this may be reflected in a 2010 study (published by the Journal of Instructional Pedagogies) where teachers’ refusal towards focusing on literacy during class (within their individual subjects) was investigated. The study found that the rates of student reading proficiency were low, with only a small percentage of students (29% of eighth grade boys and 34% of eighth-grade girls) reading at or above proficient levels. Another study, which was conducted by Cathleen Garcia in 2003, demonstrated that student success in science activities was correlated with elementary teachers’ personal attitudes towards science.

Teacher attitudes can either have positive or negative impacts on students. Teachers who take responsibility for their knowledge and capabilities tend to have more positive relationships with their students. Showing appreciation, displaying interest, understanding what students are thinking, asking them questions, providing them with feedback, and giving them compliments are among the positive teacher behaviors that generally result in students’ success and motivation to increase. Additionally, it was shown that a teacher smiling at students and having a relaxed body posture have a stronger effect on a student’s learning experience than the topic being taught. Students who have a supportive and loving teacher and take him/her as a role model are more likely to maintain positive relationships with others, as well as become more willing to help and be considerate towards them.

What if, on the other hand, a teacher has a negative attitude towards students? Recent research has shown that negative teacher attitudes have been associated with impaired academic success and psychological problems among students. According to a 2001 study by Florin Sava, which was published in the International Journal for Teaching and Teacher Education, teachers who use fear, intimidation, and humiliation tactics may lead to students becoming more withdrawn and anxious, as well as developing habit disorders. In some situations, a student’s anxiety may become so severe that they could start developing physical symptoms because their teacher’s attitude is very negative. Among these symptoms are a lack of energy and an upset stomach. These tensions not only harm the student physically, but they also affect their ability to concentrate in class. This lack of focus could lead the teacher to punish them and this may end up becoming a vicious cycle if the teacher doesn’t stop his/her negative attitude and the students continue to suffer physically and mentally.

In conclusion, a teacher’s attitude plays a significant role in not only a student’s intellectual and emotional development, but also in society. Teachers with positive attitudes towards both students and education have been associated with increased motivation and success among students, as well as students developing more positive characteristics (ex. Being considerate towards other people and maintaining strong relationships with them). If, however, teachers display negative attitudes towards both, then students are more likely to struggle with their physical and mental health. Even something that may seem very minute (ex. A teacher’s gestures) could have a profound effect on a student, whether it be a positive or negative one. From this, one may come to the realization that teachers do indeed have a heavy responsibility to carry. They’re usually the individuals whom children take as role models after their parents. If teachers don’t have the appropriate qualifications or aren’t taking their roles seriously, then one can imagine how chaotic and disruptive a nation can become.  

About the writer: T. Mahmud completed her high school education in Dhaka. She received her Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology at Simmons University, USA. She is currently enrolled in UCL’s (University College London) Special and Inclusive Education masters program.