Cooperative Relationships in Early Childhood Education

Instructor: Joanna Harris

Joanna has taught high school social studies both online and in a traditional classroom since 2009, and has a doctorate in Educational Leadership

This lesson plan will benefit teachers looking for information on cooperative relationships in early childhood education, and how to build them. This lesson will focus on the cooperative relationship between teachers and students, the teacher and the family, and the teacher and administrators in early childhood education.

The Teacher-Child Relationship

The teacher-child relationship, or the interactions both negative and positive between teacher and student, has a very important role in the early development of young children and their adjustment to the classroom. The failure of teachers and students to build this important bond in early childhood education can lead to poor grade performance and the lack of student engagement in the school social environment.

Effective teacher-child relationship building should include three features of focus for teachers: closeness, dependency, and conflict. Closeness is when students and teachers have a form of communication that is open and nurturing and provides support for the student in classrooms and in the school environment. For example, when and if problems arise (be they social or academic) a student should be able to discuss the issue with their teacher and also should not feel any apprehension in doing so.

Dependency, or the unhealthy relationship between the student and the teacher where the student cannot function independently of their teacher, should be avoided at all costs. For example, young students in early childhood classrooms may shy away from building healthy relationships with their peers if their relationship with their teacher is one of dependence.

Conflict, or the lack of effective communication between the teacher and the student that can lead to battles between the two inside the classroom, should also be avoided. Students who have conflict with their teachers can become disenchanted with the school environment. This can cause young children to experience alienation, anger, and feelings of anxiety.

The Relationship Between Teachers and Families

Too often, the relationship between teachers and parents can start off on the wrong foot due to negative assumptions held by both before they have the chance to even begin building a relationship. Many of these notions are preconceived and built from previous experiences where one side failed to support the other with the student caught in the middle.

Family-teacher relationships, or the interactions between the teacher and the parent/guardians of the students they teach, are a key component in the success of children in early childhood education. Teachers and parents can build a healthy and an effective relationship if they can avoid certain barriers when building the relationship.

Here are some key barriers to building a healthy and strong teacher-parent relationship:

  • Differences in Background: When teachers and families are from different backgrounds, things can 'get lost in translation' between the two when they communicate. Unintentional slights that could have been avoided might arise. Empathy and understanding of different cultures and a willingness to learn about the other's demographic can help to overcome this barrier.
  • Communication Discomfort: This results from fear and/or the building of preconceived notions about the level of efficacy teachers and parent have with each other, and it blocks effective communication. A previous negative experience that a teacher may have had with a parent or a parent may have had with a teacher is all it takes for one side to be hesitant to deal with the other in the future. There are also instances where language barriers may cause parents to feel hindered in their ability to effectively communicate with teachers.
  • Different Views: Parents and teachers may not agree on the best course of action when a child is in need of help. This can create a barrier to a healthy teacher-parent relationship. Teachers and parents are both passionate advocates for students, and both sides can get in the way of the other despite the fact that both sincerely want to see a young child succeed. Parents often feel that they best know their child and what that child needs; teachers, given their education and training, also believe they know what is best for their students. When both sides come to the table and acknowledge that they have the same goal in mind -- the success of their students -- listening to each other and relationship-building can break down this barrier.

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