Strong Teacher to Student Relationships: A Key to Success

America’s Promise Alliance is a nonprofit that came about from the 1997 Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future. Many astute and powerful leaders gathered together to address the problems facing the youth of the country as they entered the workforce without the preparation necessary for success.  They made five promises to the youth of America, with the cooperative effort between schools and the communities that surround them as the foundation for keeping the promises.

Recently, this nonprofit released a report that found that students who left school early were twice as likely to have no one to turn to for help, and did not reach out to a teacher for help. In contrast, students who graduated on time sought assistance from teachers when needed.

This clearly highlights the critical nature of strong, genuine teacher to student relationships where students feel supported and important. So, how can we accomplish this goal?

The Thought Co. has some helpful suggestions:

Gain the trust and respect of your students from the beginning of school. Providing structure to the school day so that they know what to expect increases the feeling of security for students.

Approach each day with a positive attitude. Attitudes are contagious, and they will “catch” whatever you have, both positive and negative.

Plan variety into your instruction—use technology, hands-on activities, and engaging projects. While teacher-led instruction is still a core part of learning, don’t let that be the only method you use.

Show a genuine interest in their lives outside of the classroom. Incorporating the interests in the lessons as often as possible reinforces for the students that you care about them as people.

Whenever you can, go the extra mile for a student. This might mean offering time after school to work on an area of struggle, or helping a family member get the medical help they need.

Some teachers start a new year with an “About me” activity, where the teacher begins by giving 5 interesting facts about him/herself and then each student takes a turn. Even students who have been together in classes for years can learn something new about their friends and especially about new students.

An often overlooked way to build positive relationships with students is to build goodwill on good days. Unfortunately, as teachers, we interact mainly with students when there is a disruption. Instead, on days when they are on task, doing the assignment well, or participating with you and their peers, compliment these actions.

Having a say in classroom procedures, homework assignments, and perhaps even the direction of the instruction can be ways to connect with students. If some parts of the school day are negotiable, not in an either/or way, but as choices and suggestions for improvement, students feel they have a more vested interest in the outcome.

Tara Brown writing for the Association for Middle Level Education says, “Relationships and instruction are not an either-or proposition, but are rather an incredible combination. Research tells us this combination will increase engagement, motivation, test scores, and grade point averages while decreasing absenteeism, dropout rates, and discipline issues.”

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