Disruptive student behaviour is a major concern for teachers, causing classroom conflict and emotional fatigue. Whilst student-teacher closeness is known to reduce student aggression and improve behaviour, it is not yet known why some teachers experience close relationships with disruptive students and others do not. This qualitative study therefore examined relational closeness between elementary teachers and disruptive students in Sydney, Australia. Using a teacher speech sample task, we identified eight disruptive students with ‘complicated’ student-teacher relationships: high in both closeness and conflict. Eleven classroom teachers and seven support teachers each spoke about their relationships with the eight students. Speech samples were analysed using an inductive content analysis to determine characteristics that may facilitate relational closeness in spite of student-teacher conflict. Findings revealed two characteristics of teachers’ speech that guided relational closeness: attributions for disruptive behaviour and emotional competence. Not all teachers, however, described a close relationship. These findings provide new directions for interventions that aim to improve student-teacher relationship quality.
- student-teacher relationships
- disruptive behaviour
- emotional competence
- five-minute speech sample