Teacher-Student Compatibility: A Construct or Reality?

Constructs are powerful entities, casually considered self-evident. A set of constructs is bequest and left to drive our decisions, attitude and conduct. They are omnipresent, pervasive and often unrecognized as such; thereby, they are risky because they can hijack our ability for good judgement. Compatibility, the sense of familiarity and increased liking, is a desideratum in teacher-student rapports and it can go to such great lengths as to sustain or rupture the cooperation.

As all relations that develop among humans, teacher and student rapport nourishes through time and undulates until it is shaped and established.

by Marina Siskou

In Greek, one alludes to the entity of effortless and instant arise of compatibility as “chemistry”, a common derivative of alchemy. Being so, chemistry tends to be an abhorrent notion (for me); suggesting the inexplicable, virtually paranormal concept that one cannot access through effort, wit and good practice.

Positive teacher-students’ relationship promote academic and cognitive progress. But the definition of “positive” is disappointingly vague. One should pursue the most precise feedback of every life situation and condition: what constitutes the positivity of a unique interaction? As common sense provisions, all relations flourish given the pivotal elements of: respect, acceptance, transparency and willingness to forgive -held and practiced mutually. The same principle applies to the teacher-student relationship, yet with the integral entity of professionalism and expertise.

Often, a teacher reiterates that their “instinct”, the sense they develop upon their first encounter with a student, is infallible. Yet, living reality cynically subverts beliefs of that nature: try to enumerate the times you sensed that chemistry between you and a student was budding, only to be disproved. Or vice versa: how many times have you experienced the turn of the trajectory of a nothing but promising first impression? Nonetheless, constructs are preserved and perpetuated.

Good teaching practice might not ensure compatibility, but it is to be effectuated despite any potential outcome. Excellence in teaching, diligence, expertise-the variants that compose good teaching- are the living proof of respect and recognition of the learner. Those are the tangible quantities which manifest responsible, quality practice: unlike a multitude of other professions, teaching outcomes are not felt in the moment: no evident change occurs after the learners exit their classroom: leaners enter and exit the same every day, until a specific time point. But normally, teaching transforms silently-without making significant changes noticed.

On the daily level, there is no concrete evidence that distinguishes good from mediocre teaching, therefore a large proportion of building collaborations relies on intuition. To what scale is intuition reliable?

Confidently, there is no answer to this question.

Within the Montessori education system

The role of intuition extends to the teacher as well. Montessori speaks often about the spirit of the teacher, the need for the teacher to be aware of the direction of life and to always be aware of the inner potentialities that are within each child. Unlike traditional education with its empirical and linear goals, Montessori is not referring just to the potential to succeed in the outer world, but to the potential of consciousness towards a complete humanity. The Montessori teacher needs intuition on a daily level in order to know when to intervene with a child at the right time, but also on a broader scale, the teacher must develop a psychology of developing consciousness and relationship, as opposed to holding a perception of life as being full of unrelated individuals (Hunt, 1912).  In this way, Montessori is countering the reductionist approach of the old worldview.

The teacher-student relationship is contingent on each age group. It is a dynamic one that quintessentially takes under consideration the particularities of different age groups and the sensitivities inherent for each one.

Indoctrinated to think in formulaic and absolutist terms, we numb our vigour to mend, enrich and strengthen connections with the learners. There is a saying proclaiming that “a good beginning is half the battle won”, with its tautological equivalent in Greek, “the beginning is the half of everything”. Both phrases over-estimate the value “half”: both are dooming expressions as they conceptualize the rapport, not as the continuum that is really is, but as a product with a beginning and an end. In reality, bad beginnings can be restored, redressed, just as commonly as brilliant beginnings cannot guarantee the same future. Such understandings issue from a reductionist standpoint and impose a ceiling on the amount of our vitality to grow strong teacher-student communities.

It is crucial to be confident enough as to trust the process of fostering and mending genuine rapports. To this end, it feels opportune to appeal to a Montessorian tenet for the teacher: According to Allison (2018), “teachers are expected to self-reflect, to become aware of their role in the energy of the classroom and the work of the children” […].

Trust is the axis of every connection:  according to the Harvard Business Review, the three elements of trust are: Positive Relationships, good judgement/expertise and consistency (Zenger & Folkman, 2019). When met with feelings of importance and respect, learners are ready to follow suit and respond accordingly: to participate, strive for progress and forgive our faults-generating the long-appraised entity of compatibility. 

References

Allison, L. (2018). Montessori Education: What is Its Relationship with the Emerging Worldview? Journal of Conscious Evolution, Vol. 8 (8)., article 5. Accessed via: https://hbr.org/2019/02/the-3-elements-of-trust.

Zenger, J., Folkman, J. (2019). The 3 Elements of Trust. Harvard Business Review. Accessed via: https://hbr.org/2019/02/the-3-elements-of-trust.