My favourite school teachers all had a huge impact. I remember them clearly, they made me feel worthwhile, competent, even brave.
Could these uplifting relationships mean even more to children who have little else to inspire them in their lives?
Experts at Edinburgh University are investigating if young people who have a good relationship with their teacher in childhood are less likely to engage in anti-social behaviour when they become adolescents.
They examined the experiences of 1,483 young people who had a change of teacher from age nine to 10.
They identified pairs of young people with similar backgrounds but ones who reported different experiences of the teacher change.
Each pair had one young person who had a better relationship with their teacher and one who had a relatively worse relationship, but were otherwise highly similar.
Researchers then compared each pair’s levels of delinquency and violence at ages 13, 15 and 17.
The analyses were carried out on 208 pairs at age 13, then 235 pairs at age 15 and 194 pairs at age 17. The children’s relationship with their teacher was assessed when they were 11. Then at the three ages, they filled in questionnaires that explored aggressive and anti-social behaviour, such as stealing from home, shoplifting or vandalism. The results were very revealing.
Researchers found the children with better relationships with their teacher at age 11 reported fewer delinquent acts up to age 17 than those with worse teacher-student relationships.
The young people with a better relationship also reported being less aggressive and violent at age 17.
The study’s startling conclusion is that the bonds young people form with teachers during childhood, and the importance they place on these relationships, affects whether they may engage in delinquency and violence when they get to adolescence.
Dr Ingrid Obsuth of the School of Health in Social Science said: “By controlling for additional potential predictors of delinquency and violence in adolescence, we were able to provide some of the strongest evidence to date for a link between the quality of teacher-student relationships and later delinquency and violence.
“Perceiving the relationship in a positive way and feeling supported and understood by the teacher has the power to protect young people from engaging in rule-breaking behaviours.”
The fallout from having a supportive teacher may go even further, to a successful future life.