Opinion: Good relationships with teachers help new students find their way at the big school

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
There is no doubt, the three ‘Rs’ are vital, but teacher-student relationships are important too.
Camera IconThere is no doubt, the three ‘Rs’ are vital, but teacher-student relationships are important too. Credit: Getty Images/Cultura RF

Well, school is back.

Yes, parents, it’s time for us teachers to get back to work and take care of your little darlings.

And believe it or not, I always look forward to the start of the school year, with new classes and new students.

This year I’m seeing a lot of very new students in my classroom.

When Year 7s move to high school, it is, indeed, a huge move for them, and sometimes for the whole family.

The move to big school is one of those important changes in life that sits up there with the first day at primary school, getting your first job and getting married.

In fact, it could be described as a watershed moment for our youngsters.

You could say the day they walk through the gates of high school, they are officially no longer children. Yet I can tell you, there are some adjustments that can lead to confusion, panic and tears.

This month, teachers Australia-wide have seen quite a bit of this, but it comes with the territory.

It’s the start of a new growth pattern in the students’ lives that will combine with others to eventually make them adolescents, and then adults.

During the first few days I’ve been getting to know my Year 7s and it’s lots of fun.

I always hit them up with the important questions first.

Now, being a big West Coast Eagles supporter, I do a bit of fishing: “who supports the Freo Dockers?”

Thinking they are in the good books, several hands enthusiastically go up, only for me to jokingly tell them, they will be getting a lot of homework.

“Just kidding.”

And then the floodgates open.

“I follow the Swans.”

“Who’s your favourite player, Mr Fiorenza?”

“My dad knows Harry Taylor.”

“Mr Fiorenza, do you really like tennis? Were you upset when Rafa got flogged?”

What started as an uneasy environment changes to a more comfortable atmosphere. The newbies begin to relax as other connections are made.

“Hey, Mr Fiorenza do you remember such and such, they’re my cousin?”

“My sister was in your class.”

“My mum knows your sister-in-law, hey?”

“Do you commentate the football?”

I think it’s really important to get to know the kids, and I’m convinced it helps with their learning too.

There is no doubt the three “Rs” are important, but good relationships are key.

In my time as an educator, I’ve also had the pleasure, or should I say the privilege, of watching people grow up.

There are good times and bad, laughter and tears, but the stock we as teachers put into your girl or boy is well and truly worth it.

And when I later see what many achieve in adult life, it makes me happy inside.

Some go on to university careers, some become master tradespeople, and some, wonderful husbands, wives and parents. The other day I received a picture of a former student and his bride on their wedding day.

How lucky I was to have seen him grow up and become a man, and how proud I was of what he had achieved.

Just like the newbies last week, I saw his confusion, his panic, his laughter and his tears. And how special it was to contribute to the wonderful person he has become.

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