When we consider where children spend much of their life outside of their homes, school should come quickly to mind. Most children have their first social interactions, outside of family, in school, and usually meet their first friends there.
So there is no surprise that good teachers represent the parental figure, the authoritative role model, when a child’s parents are not present. The child will come to trust his teacher and turn to him for guidance in decision-making and support in his choices if they are appropriate. I am not surprised when primary students call me “Dad” by mistake and then cover their giggling mouths. Obviously, they have transposed the image of parent to the substitute parent.
As a teacher, I see all too often the bonds disintegrating when students and teachers do not connect. Teachers should never be friends with their students; however, they do need to establish a trustworthy relationship with them. When a teacher fails to commit to a promise he has made (e.g., saying he will approach a bully who has victimized a student and not following through), students become defensive.
My novel More Precious Than Rubies clearly differentiates between the trust the students feel for Mr. Donlevy and the distrust they feel for Mr. Theisen. I have tried to show that strength in a teacher is not in asserting one’s power over students; strength can simply be given through quiet, serious instruction. The students in the book soon realize that Mr. Theisen may be strong physically but not emotionally.