Building Relationships with Students

As a child, I can remember being incredibly excited to go to school, the main reason being that I would get to see my teacher. There was constant hugs and drawings given to the teacher from all of the students, followed by meaningful conversation. I recall having multiple opportunities throughout the day for one-on-one sharing with our teacher and whole group setting where each student could share important things happening in their lives that week. This was a major reason why I loved going to school so much, the relationship that I had with my teacher and the classroom community that she built by getting to know her students on a deeper level than just providing them with an education. There were rarely outbursts among individual students and I deeply credit this to the relationship that my past teachers nurtured between each of the students. So, I ask, how meaningful is the interaction between the teacher and the students?  Does the relationship between teachers and students have effects on successful learning and behavior?

My opinion of this concept strengthened after I began my experience at a Head Start program. Although, I have been viewing the opposite and more negative affect of a less strengthened relationship between the teachers and students. The children do not come to school excited to greet their teachers, they do not go to their teachers to talk about the new and exciting things happening in their lives and they do not invite their teachers to show them their work or what they are playing. During free time and free play, I notice that the two teachers in the room do not frequently sit down to inquire about what the students are working on or playing with. This period of time would be perfect to indulge in one-on-one conversations and give the teachers a deeper understanding about the students in their room, the interests that they have, how they play, and how they learn. Whole group setting would be another time to have students share information about themselves or discuss experiences that they have had in the classroom, which also does not occur. I feel very strongly that this is why the students may have more behavior problems, the students are not feeling engaged and understood which causes more conflict resulting in poor behavior. This saddens me that the students in my class may not feel understood or able to talk about their emotions, which is why I think they act out. They are not engaged because they are left to play in the exact same centers every day while their teachers work on other things around the room. They do not receive the individualized attention that they are most likely seeking. The students now look forward to the Tuesdays that my partner and I are in the classroom and when they have a problem, exciting news or an outburst, they always come to my partner and I, rather than the teachers.

I conducted research to inquire about the value of the relationship between teachers and students and what aspects of learning and behavior in the classroom that a positive or negative relationship can impact. Multiple research articles conveyed the same message through many different forms of research, the relationship between students and the teacher is incredibly significant and crucial to a successful learning environment. Although the field of early childhood education has evolved an incredible amount since the time that I was in elementary school, the desired relationship that students would like to have with their teacher has not changed. The research conducted discussed the effects of engagement, behavior and academic achievement which is many aspects that will impact a student in the classroom representing the importance and value of the relationship developed between teachers and students. To see first-hand and learn more about the strong impact of the value of a relationship between the student and teacher, you can watch this video.

The Power of Relationships in Schools

Research shows that students who feel safe and supported by adults at school are better able to learn. Our How Learning Happens video series explores teaching practices grounded in the science of learning and human development.


In past experiences of field and my own memories, I have witnessed the opposite of this and I have seen the value that a strong relationship between the student and teachers will bring to the student in many aspects of the classroom. When a student has a strong relationship with their teacher they will enjoy going to school, be more engaged in conversations and learning new topics and subjects, their behavior will be more positive than a student that does not have a relationship with their teacher. Which is why I strongly believe that the relationship that the teacher nurtures between each of their students will have a strong impact on student success in all aspects of the classroom environment. At this point in my observation and research, I reach out to my readers to ask for suggestions on ways to develop stronger relationships in the classroom with students that are more difficult to reach? As well as how to develop deeper relationships with students after months of school have already passed by?


Claessens, L. C. A., van Tartwijk, J., van der Want, A. C., Pennings, H. J. M., Verloop, N., den Brok, P. J., & Wubbels, T. (2017). Positive teacher–student relationships go beyond the classroom; problematic ones stay inside. Journal of Educational Research110(5), 478–493.   


Lippard, C. N., La Paro, K. M., Rouse, H. L., & Crosby, D. A. (2018). A Closer Look at Teacher–Child Relationships and Classroom Emotional Context in Preschool. Child & Youth Care Forum47(1), 1–21.


Archambault, I., Vandenbossche-Makombo, J., & Fraser, S. (2017). Students’ Oppositional Behaviors and Engagement in School: The Differential Role of the Student-Teacher Relationship. Journal of     Child & Family Studies26(6), 1702–1712.


Who are you gurus?

Aspiring Educator 

Who reassures and stretches you as an early childhood educator?

The people that reassure and stretch me as an early childhood educator are my past teachers and teachers that I have interned with and learned from through their experiences. I have fond memories of my experience as a student in elementary school. The teachers that have made such an impact on my life are Mrs. Crist, Mrs. Henderson, and Mrs. Leonard. These are the teachers that made my education enjoyable and engaging. I had a difficult time going to school as a child because I had such severe separation anxiety when being away from home. These teachers that I mentioned went above and beyond to build a relationship with me that made me more comfortable at school. They would attend my soccer games, make time to talk to me individually and even invited my mom to volunteer in the classroom. To this day I keep in touch with these teachers because they completely changed my educational experience. My fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Crist actually has a letter from me that I wrote when I was in fifth-grade that she has hung on her personal bulletin board that says, “I have always wanted to be a teacher but now I want to be a teacher just like Mrs. Crist.” She continues to reassure me as a future educator. I have volunteered in all of their classrooms throughout the years to observe the ways that they still are changing students’ lives in their classroom by showing an interest in the child as a whole rather than just working to educate them.  These educators inspired me to become a teacher to make an impact in children’s lives in the way that they have impacted mine.


Whose pedagogies are shaping your path?

Throughout my experience at Millersville University, all of my professors’ pedagogies have begun to shape my path as a future educator. I really feel that I have received a very rich experience at Millersville because I have been taught by so many professors with such great experiences and different views. Dr. Bower has made a strong impact on my educational path because he shared so many methods and ideas for how to incorporate technology into the classroom in a purposeful way. His class was so meaningful to me because he is a current teacher, so he was able to share his experiences from his week and the ways he adapted to make a difference for students. He shared the true meaning of differentiation and provided so many examples for unique ways to reach all of your students’ needs and potential. As a STEM minor, he really helped to guide me with his methods of how to make projects come to life for students so that they can show their knowledge in a way that best meets their own learning needs. All of my professors have so much experience in the early childhood field, from teacher, preschool director, principal, ELL teacher, and special education teacher, I have been provided with so many perspectives and philosophies that I strongly believe in.


Who is teaching you about the Why and the How in the field of early childhood education?

Someone that teaches me about the why and how in the field of early childhood education is Cristi Edwards. She is great friends with my mom and I babysit for her family. She has a lot of experience in the field as she has taught many grades in public school, ranging from kindergarten to sixth-grade but also worked in a preschool for many years as well. She now has a certification in special education, so she has a cotaught classroom. She has 16 years of teaching experience and has worked in many roles. She is able to discuss with me how education is changing and what would be best to do in order to adapt to the changes. She is someone that is not afraid to take risks and make mistakes in order to try something new that could be beneficial to her students. When I design a lesson for assignments throughout my time in college, I typically go to her for advice on whether or not it is developmentally appropriate for the age group and what I can do to differentiate because she has so much knowledge from the many grade levels that she has taught and on how to differentiate. She has definitely helped to shape me as a future educator by always providing feedback and insight on the why and how of early childhood education.


Who speaks truth to you? Shares new insights with you?

My mom is an elementary school teacher and she is always striving to learn more and be the best teacher that she can be. She is the most inspiring person in my life because she lifts everyone around her and helps them to reach their highest potential. The relationships that she builds with her students are incredible, her past students and parents reach out through emails very often to thank her for everything that she did for them. This past year, her school district put together a video of multiple students from graduating class and each thanked a teacher that impacted them the most and so many students talked about the impact she had on them. She is a phenomenal teacher, when I observe her class it is so engaging, all the students are involved, and each lesson has been differentiated to meet their individual needs.

My mom also keeps it real with me. She tells me how challenging it truly is to be an exceptional teacher that reaches each student in a purposeful and impactful way, but it is the most rewarding career that you could have. We are always discussing different practices in the classroom, specifically STEM because my mom continues to challenge her own practices to expand her lessons to become even more engaging.