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10 ways to build strong teacher–student relationships

Female teacher looking over class assignment with young students

At a glance

  • Positive relationships with students typically include open communication, guidance that encourages and mutual trust.
  • To build strong relationships with students, teachers must treat everyone with respect, make time for one-on-one communication, welcome feedback and lead by example.
  • Learn more ways to enhance your teaching experience through online education degrees and certificates at University of Phoenix.

It takes a great deal of knowledge, understanding and skill to be a successful educator. Many educators invest their time in obtaining the right qualifications and learning the various educational theories available to become a great one. Some may even take the time to hone the qualities that make a good teacher.

A number of beneficial online degrees can help teachers acquire skills and knowledge that will lead them toward becoming great educators. One such skill — developing healthy relationships with students — can be an important priority. Strong teacher–student relationships are invaluable to the learning process and can provide deeper insight into effective teaching strategies for different types of learners.

The importance of positive teacher–student relationships

Positive teacher–student relationships greatly impact a successful learning experience. They can improve student self-confidence, academic performance and mutual respect between the two parties.

A positive relationship often has open communication where teachers actively listen to their students and encouragingly provide feedback and guidance. Positive relationships also let students feel secure so they can speak up in class and reach out when needed. All these results in more-engaged learners who are willing to take risks while exploring new ideas.

Ultimately, these relationships help foster an environment of trust where learning can occur without fear, judgment or failure.

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How to develop relationships with students

Every student is different, but the following strategies can foster strong teacher–student relationships in most classrooms.

1.   Show your passion

As a teacher, showing enthusiasm and passion for your subject is essential. Not only will this help you engage with students, but it is also vital for fostering an atmosphere of learning and exploration. Enthusiasm motivates students to learn, while passion shows them how the lessons have relevance and purpose.

A few ways to show enthusiasm in the classroom are to:

  • Offer creative activities
  • Engage with students’ opinions
  • Provide examples that are relevant to them

By meeting your students where they are and adapting your curriculum to reflect their interests, you can create an environment of motivation in the classroom. Seeing your students’ enthusiasm is one of the many benefits you can expect as a teacher.

2.   Treat everyone with respect

It’s essential to treat each student with respect and recognize their individual needs. This means being patient, understanding and open to hearing different perspectives. Respectful teacher–student relationships are based on trust and communication — both involve actively listening to students as they share their thoughts and feelings while providing ample opportunity to voice concerns or feedback.

When students feel respected and heard, it can transform their relationship with school. It can dramatically improve their school experience, including reducing the number of suspensions and drop-out rates. They are also more likely to participate in class discussions, take risks exploring new concepts and be open to feedback. This can also lead to a stronger bond that benefits teachers and students alike.

To show respect and create a welcoming classroom :

  • Take time to listen to what students have to say
  • Balance teacher-centered lectures with group discussions
  • Give each student undivided attention when needed
  • Provide positive reinforcement and meaningful feedback

3.   Highlight the good more than the bad

Rewarding good behavior and achievements is a great way to encourage learning and build strong relationships. It can also be a more effective way of reinforcing positive behaviors when compared to simply punishing the bad.

By drawing attention to what students are doing right and praising their successes, teachers can create an environment where students feel valued and supported, as well as motivated to continue striving for success. Students can then also recognize their progress and build a sense of accomplishment. A few ways to reward good behavior are:

  • Verbally acknowledging accomplishments
  • Offering incentives such as extra credit or a special activity
  • Creating a bulletin board that celebrates student successes
  • Notifying families about progress and achievements, not just potential problems

With support from inside and outside the classroom, students can feel empowered and motivated to reach their goals.

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4.   Learn more about your students

Getting to know your students on a deeper level lets you tailor your teaching methods and activities to fit their individual needs — and build stronger relationships in the process.

To get started, try having regular one-on-one conversations with students or hosting group activities that encourage collaboration and discussion. Additionally, you can invite students to share aspects of their personal lives, such as hobbies, passions or family stories. Relating to any of their experiences can help your students feel more comfortable and connected while underscoring your commitment to their success.

5.   Make time for one-on-one communication

Building relationships with students shouldn’t be limited to classroom instruction. Many students need a teacher who is willing to listen and give support they need. While it’s hard to fit every student into your busy schedule, making time for one-on-one communication is necessary. This could include:

  • Meeting with students before or after class to discuss assignments
  • Giving them extra help during their free periods
  • Setting aside a few minutes daily to check in and ask how they’re doing

It may not sound like much, but these actions can make a huge difference in building a strong bond and fostering communication. Even taking this approach with small groups of two or three students can help you get to know them personally and build trust.

6.   Let students make choices

Providing students autonomy and the freedom to make their own choices can help them develop vital problem-solving skills. It can also help instill a sense of responsibility, ownership and independence in your students.

To create an atmosphere where students feel comfortable making decisions, try the following:

  • Develop open-ended questions that allow room for creativity
  • Create an activity or assignment requiring students to collaborate and problem-solve
  • Allow students to choose their projects or assignments
  • Be flexible with classroom rules allowing for a certain degree of freedom within the structure

Inviting students to voice their opinions and take ownership of their learning allows them to take an active role in their education.

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7.   Admit mistakes and learn from them

Mistakes are a natural part of the learning process, so acknowledging them and using them as an opportunity to grow can help students gain confidence. When teachers and students make mistakes, it’s best to approach them with understanding. This could involve:

  • Acknowledging your own mistakes when you make them
  • Creating a safe space for students to share mistakes without judgment
  • Having conversations about how to learn from mistakes and using them as a chance to grow

Seeing mistakes as opportunities for growth can help your students develop resilience and hone their problem-solving skills.

8.   Welcome feedback and change

Students may have valid suggestions or critiques of your teaching methods and activities. Showing that you value their input can help them feel more heard and engaged in the learning process.

Encourage students to provide honest feedback through:

  • Creating surveys or polls with open-ended questions
  • Inviting student feedback on lesson plans and activities
  • Allowing students to share their thoughts after each class

A student’s voice is a powerful tool that can help shape the learning environment for the better, especially when the feedback is honestly offered and openly received. As a teacher, you don’t have to give credence to every idea offered, but you do have to approach each idea with an open mind and a willingness to change.

9.   Lead as a role model

Leading by example is one of the most important ways to build relationships with students. Show your students you care about their success and well-being by:

  • Being a role model for positive behavior, such as being respectful and showing kindness
  • Practicing self-care and encouraging your students to do the same
  • Showing an interest in building relationships with each student

While not every moment of teacher leadership will be successful or enjoyable, leading by example can help students understand the importance of positive behavior.

10.   Say hello and goodbye every day

A simple “good morning” or “have a great day” can go a long way. Taking the time to greet your students daily can help create an atmosphere of warmth, respect and friendship in the classroom. Sometimes kids need to know someone cares.

Greeting your students each day could involve:

  • Making eye contact as you pass out materials or take attendance
  • Welcoming them with a smile and “Good morning, everyone!”
  • Saying goodbye with an encouraging phrase such as, “I hope you have a great day!” 

These small but meaningful gestures can make a big difference in how your students feel about themselves and their learning experience.

Building relationships with students is vital for creating a supportive classroom environment.

So, take the time to get to know your students, listen to what they have to say and be open to learning from them as much as possible. The result may just be a successful classroom and lifelong learning mindset for teacher and student alike.

Earn a degree in education at University of Phoenix

Whether you are taking the first step in your journey toward a career in education or looking to expand your existing knowledge and skill set, University of Phoenix offers a variety of degree and certificate options. These include:


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