Teacher to Student

Photo by Rendy Novantino on Unsplash

Research validates what educational leaders know – students thrive when they have positive relationships with teachers and other caring adults in their lives. These relationships impact their engagement, academic achievement, and psychological and emotional wellbeing. According to the Every Child Every Promise Report, 42% of young people wish they had more caring adults in their lives. While lack of in-person interactions during the pandemic has impacted many relationships and the ease with which they can be built, it was encouraging to hear from educators that they were also able to deepen relationships with some students. To support teachers in forming and nurturing these vital relationships, educational leaders must provide them with the time, space, resources, and training to build them.  

Pianta, Hamre & AllenPositive relationships with adults are perhaps the single most important ingredient in promoting positive student development.

PrincipalWe’re thinking about social emotional learning. We’re trying to build it in the schedule. We’re doing advisory meets more than twice a week (their schedule is 2x a week) because now more than ever, students are really going to need to have that point person or that group of students that they feel is their home base.

Guiding Questions

  • How can we support teachers in forming and nurturing healthy relationships with students while meeting the demands of rigorous instruction?
  • What are some best practices teachers can employ to build and nurture healthy relationships with students throughout the school year?
Examples, Tools and Strategies
Strategies Aligned Resources

Implement an advisory system 

To help build and strengthen relationships and distribute student guidance, implement a flexible advisory system into the schedule for each grade. The focus of advisory can change throughout the year based on the changing needs of the students. All students and staff should participate in advisory. 

  • During the first month of advisory time, emphasize acclimation and re-acclimation, especially for students with the least experience in the school community.  This will be particularly helpful for 9th and 10th grades. 
  • Encourage teachers to alter the focus of advisory as needed (e.g., community building, academic readiness, advisor-advisee relationship building, thematic). 

“Were thinking about social emotional learning, were trying to build it in the schedule. Were doing advisory meets more than twice a week because now more than ever, students are really going to need to have that point person or that group of students that they feel is their home base.” – Principal   

To help you and your team create a system that works for your district, read The Role of Advisory in Personalizing the Secondary Experience + Add to Action Plan. The article from Getting Smart gives five core elements for an effective system and other useful tips and resources.

Provide consistent attention & reflection 

Relationships can be built and nurtured by consistently paying attention to students, monitoring data, and reflecting on where they are. By tuning in on an ongoing basis to students’ emotional needs and wellbeing, you can demonstrate concern, tailor instructional strategies and approaches, and potentially avoid issues or mitigate challenges. 

In response to the question “What is your advice/what will you be doing to make the transition back to school successful?” one teacher said, “Just to be a keen observer of my students because were in sort of an unknown situation. There will be some pressure and [it] will be tempting to just rush and dive in.“  

In addition to creating a positive environment in the classroom and school, it’s important to notice when students are struggling, not responding in their usual manner, or stop engaging in the school community. Download and share the Pause & React tool + Add to Action Plan from International Center for Leadership in Education which walks users through five steps and corresponding actions to help connect with and guide students facing challenges.