Social and Emotional Relationships Between Teachers and Students

Published: 2021-09-29 11:50:10
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According to the National Education Association, cultural competence or understanding is the ability of perceiving and acknowledging one’s own cultural distinctiveness and having the capacity to enhance their world views by opening their mindset to diverse and possibly unfamiliar cultural and community norms that make each of us unique. This practice is used by teachers to help gain a better understanding of students. Teachers who develop social and emotional relationships with their students may have a more manageable classroom climate than teachers who disregard such practices. Teachers who have healthy relationships with their students have more effective classroom management which ultimately leads to effective social emotional learning. Social emotional learning is defined as the way both children and adults apply the skills they have learned to understand and manage emotions (Jennings, et al, 2009). Teachers who do not participate in social emotional learning practices, have more students with behavioral and disciplinary trouble as well as students who average lower test scores. When teachers experience students with behavioral problems due to declining classroom environment, teachers become increasingly more debilitated and burnout ensues (Jennings, et all, 2009).
Burnout is explained as a condition where teachers become “cynical and callous and may eventually feel they have little to offer or gain from continuing, and so drop out of the teaching workforce.” (Jennings, et all, 2009 p. 492). With this burnout, teachers have begun to question how effective they can be in the face of so many overwhelming challenges within the classroom. Teachers who face the reality of burnout often become harsh and insensitive towards students. Some teachers choose to leave the teacher workforce all together, while others choose to stay in an often unhappy environment of which they have little control. Teachers who take the time to set boundaries through social emotional learning are less at risk of burnout because they have taken the time to build a mutual respect and rapport with their students, which ultimately makes for a more harmonious learning environment for both the teacher and students. The research presented in this literature review will be a comprehensive examination of urban schools and teacher retention rates. Specifically, looking at factors that cause high teacher turnover rates and the possible solutions put into place to help curb the ever rising turnover rates.Statistics
The National Center for Education Statistics (2010) reports that 67.3% of the student population in urban districts is composed of students of color. Yet, the population of teachers in the United States in 83% white (National Center for Education Statistics), the majority of whom are from middle class English-only backgrounds (Waddell, 2011). These staggering numbers create a cultural collide within the contexts of the classroom. The apparent predicament lies within the hands of the institutions we trust to train highly qualified teachers. Colleges and universities must make a commitment to these statistics to train teachers in multicultural preparatory programs. Several colleges and universities have mandated cultural awareness and diversity classes as part of their ever-changing curriculum, however, we must ask ourselves if this is enough. We, as teachers, are sanctioned to make our classrooms interactive and engaging for students to not only understand, but to learn. We should be holding ourselves to this same standard of leaning.
Almost a quarter of new public school teachers will leave teaching within the first three years (U.S. Department of Education, 2007). The attrition rate is higher in urban schools with low performance rates as opposed to well-endowed, high achieving schools (Ingersoll, 2011). Teachers are leaving the profession due to the staggering lack of support, respect and challenging work environment. Others feel the curriculum is overwhelming and government sanctions are interfering with their work in the classroom. Standardized testing has taken priority in many classrooms across the country, including the new phenomenon of “teaching for the test”, which has become a regular routine for many teachers. Teachers feel pressure to have their students perform well on standardized tests due to the evaluative piece that is often tied into standardized testing. If students do not meet their goals, teachers may be discharged for the following school year, ultimately impacting the teacher attrition rates and negatively impacting the school district’s budget (Herman, et al, 1994).
According to the U.S. Department of Education, teacher turnover rate is a significant problem that is costly not only to each state but to the country as a whole, averaging into the billions each year (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005). Although retirement is accounted for in the attrition rate, the number is relatively small compared to other reasons cited by teachers for leaving the profession. Reasons included, “inadequate support from the school administration, low salaries, student discipline problems, and limited faculty input into school decision-making, all contribute to higher rates of turnover” (Ingersoll, 1999). Although teacher attrition rates impact the country as a whole, they significantly negatively impact high-needs schools, where “the teacher turnover rate is about 20 percent per calendar year – roughly 50 percent higher than the rate in more affluent schools” (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2014) (Dunn, et al, 2017 p. 209).
These astounding numbers put the students who attend high-needs schools at a disadvantage. Students who see a consistent routine of new teachers each year, are more prone to behavioral issues. If above mentioned issues, such as support from administration and having a voice in school decision making, could be resolved, more teachers would stay at schools, positively impacting social-emotional learning with their students and ultimately creating a more progressive and productive classroom. Unfortunately, the above mentioned issues are still deciding factors for teachers to walk away from their careers on a routine basis, which leads to being replaced with more inexperienced teachers, ultimately costing the district valuable money that could be put towards something more beneficial to the students.
Assumptions are commonly made that the high teacher turnover rate has a negative and often debilitating impact on student achievement. Research lends itself to both sides of this inquiry. Research shows that “some amount of turnover may in fact be beneficial to institutions and individuals” (Ronfeldt, et al, 2012 p. 1). In a study by Guin in 2004, research finds that the correlation between teacher turnover rates and students meeting state level assessments was ultimately negative, stating that schools with high turnover rates had low achievement rates (Ronfeldt, et al, 2012). Although the correlation is one that has been studies before, Ronfeldt, Loeb and Wyckoff introduce a new idea, “teachers leaving may cause low achievement, but low achievement may also cause teachers to leave” (Ronfeldt, et al, 2012 p. 2).
Teachers today live in two worlds. One world where they have a passion to teach, explore new ideas with their students and give them time to conceptualize and grow. The other world is filled with government sanctions, evaluations and documentation. Teachers feel strained and stretched thin to be able to accomplish all things in both worlds. They must find time to teach the set curriculum, find engaging and interactive way to incorporate students in to their lessons as well as prepare them for standardized testing, which, if they do not meet their goals, could inadvertently cost their teacher their job. Although the obvious correlation with teacher turnover is negative, there may be a positive aspect. “Newly hired teachers tend to be inexperienced and underqualified, however, does not necessarily imply that turnover is bad” (Ronfeldt, et al, 2012 p.2). New teachers may be inexperienced, however they may also bring a breath of fresh air into a classroom. Novice teachers bring with them new techniques, ideas and strategies that may have been overlooked by more veteran teachers. This is not to say that veteran teachers are without distinguished qualifications, however sometimes a new outlook or perspective can change the trajectory of a classroom.
Teacher turnover rates are a component in the educational system that is a reality for every district in every state. There is research to suggest that turnover will impact student achievement even when replacement teachers are equally as qualified as leaving teachers. Why does turnover impact student achievement if students are continuing to receive the same quality of education? “According to Bryk and Schneider (2002) the quality of relationships between teachers, and between teachers and students predicts student achievement (Ronfeldt, et al, 2012 p. 5). Student achievement is lowered due to trust being broken between teacher and student. This study is a direct correlation to competency in the classroom, when teachers take the time to emotionally invest in students, trust is built and a relationship ensues. When students are able to trust teachers, they are able to feel safe and confident in themselves as well as in their education. Teachers must take the time to invest time and energy to emotionally support students so that in turn, students will invest in their own education.
Teacher turnover does more than negatively impact students, it presents significant challenges to staff as well. Turnover has financial ramifications on the district, specifically in low achieving schools. Turnover also puts a strain on veteran teachers. Studies have shown that more experienced, higher performing teachers tend to stay, which involves them to “carry more of the instructional burden and have less professional development resources available to them, as available resources get used up on new hires (Shields, et al., 1999/2001). Persistent turnover may then have a debilitating impact on staying teachers and, in turn, their students. (Ronfeldt, et al, 2012 p.6).
One program, Project Accessing Community Collaborations to Enhance Student Success (Project ACCESS) is designed to help teacher candidates gain a better understanding of themselves as teachers in urban schools, gain a better understanding of the urban community including its challenges and resources (Waddell, 2011). Nationwide, approximately 30% of new teachers are choosing to leave the profession within 5 years. In disadvantaged and more diverse educational settings with lack of administrative and peer support, more teachers decided to leave the profession early in their career. (Jung, et al, 2010). If teachers knew what they were getting themselves into, teaching in an urban and impoverished area, the rate of teacher turnover would diminish. First year teachers are taking jobs in depleted schools due to lack of experience and willingness to create a climate for change for students. Teacher preparatory programs must begin to implement first hand, real world experiences in an effort to end the teacher turnover rate.
High teacher turnover rate is a high caliber problem that is a predicament not simply due to the rate of teacher retirement. Data collected from two large-scale federal surveys found that “low salaries, student discipline problems, inadequate support from the school administration and limited faculty input into school decision making all contribute to higher rates of turnover” (Weiss, 2005). Hiring teachers who lack experience will not fix the teacher turnover rate. If anything, putting underqualified candidates into unfamiliar and uncontrollable positions will only make circumstances worse. Urban schools have trouble finding, hiring and retaining quality teachers due to criteria listed above, including salary schedules, student discipline problems as well as inadequate support from administration. Quality and experienced teachers look elsewhere for employment, leaving urban schools desperate for a last resort, novice teacher candidate.
One methodology that should be held in high regard is Tomlinson’s suggested four elements of the classroom, which includes who we teach, where we teach, what we teach and how we teach (Jung, et al, 2010). When discussing the idea of who we teach, it becomes inevitable that we take into account the personal life of the students we come into contact with on a daily basis. The statistics are clear, teachers are not educating students who come from the same type of background they have experienced. Some studies have reported that because the education system of students’ cultures are different from the culture of their new classroom, the academic achievement of students may be low or bad (Alsubaie, 2015). Teachers need to experience first hand the day to day reality that some students are living. Culture shock is a very real phenomenon for both teachers and students, which is why cultural competency is so important in the classroom. The end goal as teachers is to educate students, however, as a teacher, one becomes emotionally invested in the lives of their students. Our end goal should be more than if the student learned the material or how well they have performed on a standardized test. We should be concerned with how the student is progressing emotionally and be invested with their daily lives beyond the door of the classroom.
“Urban education experts don’t typically live in urban communities. They don’t look like the students and there are often class distinctions that separate them from the students. The nature of how we view urban education has created a context that dismisses student’s lives and experiences while advocating for equity and improving schools.” (Edmin, 2016, p.20). Edmin goes on to say that for a teacher to understand the lives of their student’s within the context of the classroom, they need to physically and emotionally experience the psyche of the student’s life outside of the walls of the classroom. Being present outside of normal school hours, taking the time to genuinely get to know students and holding oneself to a high standard can be beneficial for a new teacher who did not receive multicultural training at a teacher preparatory program.

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