Creating Positive Relationships

by Mandi Olson

As teachers, it is important to reflect on what matters most when it comes to increasing student achievement.  While classroom spaces, curriculum mapping, assessments, and lesson plans are necessary for teachers, the most critical thing to remember when school starts is developing positive relationships with our students. In addition, educators should create positive relationships with parents and families to ensure a supportive learning environment for students. 

Teacher-Student relationships can have a significant impact on student learning and have the potential to accelerate student achievement.  Teachers know that the connection a teacher can have with a student can profoundly impact the students’ lives.  Dr. Comer, a professor of Child Psychiatry, explained that “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.”  While curriculum, standards, and assessment are important in education, without a strong relationship between teachers and students, the effectiveness of learning will not be maximized.  Now that classroom procedures have been established, educators should ensure the positive relationships have been cultivated and are supported with students and families to ensure a successful school year.

There are a variety of ways teachers can develop relationships with students.  Creating a positive classroom environment can help foster positive teacher-student relationships.  Teachers create positive environments for students not only by designing an inviting classroom environment but also by getting to know the students individually.  There are many ways teachers can get to know their students.  This can be done by asking students questions about themselves, understanding the students’ point of view, and looking at students as individuals within the classroom.  Teachers can provide time for students to share their likes and preferences and what makes them unique individuals.  Surveying students throughout the school year can also allow the teacher to hear student voices about how they are feeling, and teachers can gain insights about how to make necessary changes to ensure they are supporting all students in their class. 

Regular class meetings can provide a way for students to share ideas and work on class goals.  In an elementary setting, class meetings help students develop trusting relationships, encourage collaboration, and help set the stage for respectful learning.  Class meetings can be a powerful strategy to help the teacher create stronger relationships with students and help create a positive classroom environment. 

Classroom rules and procedures are important to teach students at the beginning of the school year and should be reinforced through the year.  Many teachers spend the first few weeks of school going over the rules and procedures to ensure students clearly understand and can demonstrate appropriate behavior and playing get-to-know-you games, and allowing students to share about themselves (their likes, dislikes, favorites, and future hopes) during the first few weeks of school help students to feel part of the classroom community.  

Teachers can communicate positively with parents by calling parents or sending emails sharing the great work and effort students are showing at school.  Positive communication home can go a long way to ensure a positive teacher and parent relationship.  Although it may be necessary to have conversations with parents about student behavior (or misbehavior) these conversations typically go better when a solid foundation is established first by positive communication.  Sharing student progress and growth with parents can also help parents understand how their student is doing in class and will ensure a positive relationship between teacher and parent. 

These are just a few ways to begin to develop positive teacher-student and teacher-parent relationships.  Just as we spend time developing lesson plans for our students, we should consciously choose ways to foster positive connections and spend time with our students to build a positive relationship. As teachers implement strategies in their classrooms to develop positive teacher-student and teacher-parent relationships with students, they will be setting a solid foundation for learning in the school year.   

Comer, James P. 2005. “Child and Adolescent Development: The Critical Missing Focus in School Reform.” Phi Delta Kappan. 86:10 (June 2005): 757-763.

Mandi Olson

Mandi Olson Mandi Olson, Ed.D, is an elementary educator who currently works as an instructional coach in Utah. She utilizes her fourteen years of knowledge and experience to support others as they further develop their educational expertise. She will provide practical insight to help teachers navigate the complex roles and responsibilities of an educator.