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.