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Is It Possible for a Student and a Professor to Be Friends?

Students spend more than 5 years of their life in the university in continued contact with their teachers. Usually, the «teacher-student» relations do not go beyond the official framework. It is interesting to understand the reason why. We tried to figure out what the reality of the simple human relations between «them» and «us» is.

Student and Professor

The Positive Effect

Some scientists from the University of Cambridge, the Swiss Higher Technical School of Zurich and the University of Toronto came to the conclusion that a good relationship between the teacher and the students probably leads to a reduction in the level of aggression among students. The paper was published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Previous studies have already pointed out the existence of a connection between the quality of the student-teacher relations and the behavior of the students involved. For example, psychologists from the Missouri University have shown that those students who are poorly treated by their teachers tend to have difficulties with emotional self-control, concentration and destructive behavior. And on the contrary, those teachers who support their students can positively influence their academic performance and social life.

10 Years of Research

A new study covered over a thousand students who had new teachers. The scientists analyzed data gathered from the families from more than 80 countries. This information was being gathered for the Zurich Project on the Social Development of Children and Youths for 10 years. Within its framework, teachers and pupils filled out a questionnaire in which they talked about their relationships with each other – for instance, they evaluated judgments such as «I have a good connection with this child or teacher». In addition to that, the survey involved their parents who talked about how the teacher relates to their child and vice versa, how the child treats the teacher.

The behavior of the students was assessed by both the teachers and parents. In particular, they reported on whether these children behaved aggressively, defiantly, pro-socially (that is, whether the behavior was aimed at making use of others), and whether they experience anxiety, depression, behavioral problems not related to aggression and symptoms of the syndrome of attention deficit. What is more, the students themselves gave an assessment of their emotional state and behavior.

The Long-Term Profit

As a result, the scientists noted that if both students and teachers spoke of a good relationship between each other, then the behavior of such students was 18 percent more pro-social and 38 percent less aggressive compared to those whose relationship did not coincide. Moreover, those students who treated their teachers positively showed 56 percent less challenging behavior – for example, they argued less often and were less vindictive.

It is worth noting that the positive impact of a good relationship persisted for several years. As such, two years after the change of the teacher occurred, the students still behaved 10 percent more pro-socially and 9 percent less aggressively for the duration of the next four years. Also, even three years after the event, the students behaved 22 percent more peaceful.


Attitude to This Issue

Even at school, it was customary to congratulate all teachers during the holidays and traditionally go to visit them. However, the university is a completely different story. All the faces are new and unfamiliar, so you will not get used to anybody and become friends with the teacher over the span of one semester. There is a certain kind of distance that not everyone can overcome, and maybe they do not even want to. Still, this situation is quite acceptable for many people, since they believe that the relationship between the teacher and the student requires mutual respect. If this line is erased, familiarity begins, and this is not good. Hence, there should be some distance between them.

Picnic with a Teacher

Quite often, the distance is kept by the professors themselves who are not allowing any students into their «personal territory». They do this in order not to lose the status in their students’ eyes, or these professors do not want their students to treat them as equals, believing that then the authority will disappear and the classes will be chaotic. There are many more reasons why they try their best to keep their distance. In most cases, they are engraved deeply in our mentality. It seems that the students would like to meet with the mentor in an informal atmosphere: after all, the professor could tell them a lot of interesting things because he or she has plenty of personal experience.

The American Experience

In America, there is such an event as a dinner with the Dean. There, all students openly share their problems with the teachers and graduate students, discuss new theories without fear of criticism and count on friendly understanding. Such meetings not only empower students, but also give them a powerful impetus to the creative search. There is no mention of any sort of familiarity – on the contrary, these students perceive their teachers as senior colleagues. A student can compete on an equal footing with an experienced professor, discuss an important scientific problem with him or her, and their relationship will not suffer from it at all – the young scientist is imbued with even greater respect for the older mentor. This way, purely human relationship is added to the formal one, a student-friendly atmosphere is created in which everyone feels more confident.

The Informal Relations

The informal communication with the teachers in the US is accepted as something natural. Going with your favorite teacher on a picnic is the most common pastime for the American students. For instance, the University of Florida has its own university lake which can be accessed only by having a university pass. There, the teachers and their students gather to freely communicate outside the walls of their own university. Or another example – the dean meets and talks with the students on all sorts of topics. Thus, he or she solves several problems at once: gets to know the students more closely and gets acquainted with their problems. Hence, a new level of relations based on mutual understanding, trust and common interests is being built. Respect for the teacher does not go anywhere – a certain distance is still preserved, but any fear disappears which fetters some students, preventing them from fully revealing their potential.

The Win-Win Situation

Such an unusual system of relationships is complemented by the fact that the students themselves assess the quality of the lecturer’s work in America. How accessible was the topic of the class? How often does the teacher use slides and visual material? There are many criteria – the main thing is that the teacher should be interesting and understandable to the audience. Since he or she is not indifferent to what students think about him or her, the educator seeks to draw their attention to the course. And friendly relations are not a hindrance.

Students in Auditorium

For a student, getting a good education is not an empty phrase. Young people should understand: to achieve success in life, you need to get as much knowledge as possible. Therefore, they should be more responsible for their own learning, realizing that the more information they receive from the teacher, the stronger their future career growth will be. What is more, they have another good motivation to start learning: to pay off an educational loan – after all, it is impossible to get their higher education for free. So, the future workplace and salary depend on the way you study.



It turns out that the «student-teacher» relationship can be characterized as mutually beneficial. For the student, it is highly beneficial to receive quality knowledge and to learn from a good teacher, while the teacher has an interested student. When the friendly relations are established between them and there are no unnecessary complexes, the communication becomes much more effective.


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