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Teaching is a profession that relies on the ability to communicate effectively with students. Robert Marzano emphasises that teaching is not just a science but also an art that requires teachers to develop a feel for their own teaching craft. In the modern era of new educational standards and accountability, it seems that we have forgotten a key classroom fundamental and that is the relationship between teacher and student. Recently, however, there has been a call by some education influencers, to focus more on building positive teacher-student relationships as a way of promoting wellbeing in schools.

Building positive teacher-student relationships provide several benefits to both students and teachers. The most important benefit is to improve students’ wellbeing and ultimately academic achievement. Significant research has been done on the perceptions that students have of their teachers and the effect that those perceptions have on the students’ learning and social development. Below are four key ways of building positive student-teacher relationships.

Engage students

A key step in building positive relationships is the engagement of students in the learning process. Most teachers, parents and students will agree that students who are active participants in the learning process enjoy their lessons more. Furthermore, when students are more engaged in classes they tend to demonstrate improvements in academic performance.

Social development is important

Another important area of focus should be on students’ social development. As educators, we often spend more time with students than they may spend with their parents. Thus, for many of these students, teachers become mentors and models of acceptable social behaviours. For some students living in low socio-economic homes or single parent homes, positive teacher-student relationships become life-changing experiences. Teachers expose these students to educational paths and other life opportunities that they would otherwise have not even dreamed of.

Classroom management is essential

One of the most important benefits of building positive relationships is the role that those relationships have on classroom management. When teachers have built positive relationships with students, they open lines of communication that facilitate management of the classroom. Students are more receptive to teachers when that bond that has been established. Research has been conducted by scholars who have asserted that teachers who are respected and admired by their students, have less discipline problems in their classrooms.

As an educator with 20 years of experience at all levels in both general education and special education settings, my ability to build positive teacher-student relationships has been the foundation of my professional success. Building these relationships have also helped my students to improve academically and personally. I have witnessed that building positive teacher-student relationships leads to improving student learning and exposing them to new experiences. It has allowed me to create an effective learning environment that engages students.

The educational profession is continually evolving to meet the changing demands of the workforce, as globalization has changed what people need to know and how they need to communicate. Although educators must adapt to the increased standards and be held accountable, it is important to not forget the core of education. Teaching is about building a relationship with students to spark their interest, engage them in the learning process, and most importantly, to provide them with the skills that they need to succeed in a world where we do not yet know what they will face in the future.

Remember, teaching is a people profession and in order to be effective, you must relate to your students as people and not just students in your class.

By Dr. Thomas Gamboa Jr., Ed. D

Dr. Gamboa has nearly 20 years of teaching experience at all levels from elementary to university graduate level. He is currently in his third year as a cycle three public school English teacher in the UAE.

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