Building Positive Relationships with Students or Establishing Order in the Classroom


Positive relationships, whether friends, colleagues or students, are fundamental to success. We perform the best when we feel nurtured. As educators, we know that the classroom is a large mix-bag- of students. Not just from different racial and ethnic backgrounds but as individuals with vast-ranging emotions, aspirations, dreams and competencies.

A lot goes into those tender minds at their tender age. They are working hard to assimilate the information they are receiving from their environment, learning new skills, and processing information constantly.

Students will engage in learning and deliver better academically if they feel supported. Research shows that positive interactions minimize behavioral problems. A positive relationship makes the student give the best output at critical and challenging points in a student’s learning journey. 

During the most uncertain and challenging times of Covid, positive relationships prompted students to work harder.

get to know students

Get to Know Students

Teachers have to make it a priority to know their students and find out their interests and motivations. Writing time can focus on areas that interest students: an experience, a favorite book they have read, or a goal they wish to achieve. It will allow the teacher to gain insight into what motivates a child and apply this to personalize his or her learning.

Check-in and check-out with students is another way to develop relationships, which any staff member at school can use. Each morning and afternoon, educators can focus on one or two students to ask them about their day and what is going on in their lives (after-school activities, shows they watch, or groups they participate in). A few moments of personal connection help develop trust and ignite ideas that could benefit many students.

Neuroscientists give reasons why positive relationships are crucial-

Positive relationships build motivation.

Positive relationships create safe spaces for learning.

Positive relationships build new pathways for learning.

Positive relationships improve student behavior.

Positive relationships build motivation.

Motivation is the desire that pushes an individual to perform better by repeating the action. For this, the positive stimulus is the most critical. 

Motivation is one of the most critical factors that drive human behavior. “Motivation is a complex concept. In essence, motivation is the desire of an individual to perform and repeat an action. Motivation is usually directed towards a positive stimulus (or away from a negative one) and ends up with the “liking phase.” (Robbins & Barry)

A lack of teacher-staff motivation would mean fewer schools were thriving and less creativity at play, leading to pedagogical stagnation. 

Numerous factors influence motivation, but recent research postulates that causes could vary between individuals and groups. For instance, some individuals are self-motivated. They do not depend on any impetus. And then a few work best in a group- they get motivated by interactions with others. Research in psychology also connects professional happiness and task management to interpersonal relationships in the workplace. Teachers must feel motivated to transmit positivity in their environment—motivation results from personal and professional fulfillment. The work environment contributes a lot to high teacher motivation. Motivated teachers transmit positivity and develop positive relationships not only with their students but with colleagues and families of the students as well.

Positive relationships create safe spaces for learning.

Positive relationships create safe spaces for learning.

If you ask young children how they know their teachers care about them, they refer to teachers being attentive (“She says hi to me when I come in the room”), addressing their nonacademic needs (“She saves a snack for me if I miss snack time”), and being fair (“She makes sure I get a turn”). The personal relationships these behaviors engender are precious for children who come to school with poor social skills (Pianta, Stuhlman, & Hamre).

“Young children share their feelings and information about themselves with affectionate and nurturing teachers. Close relationships with teachers lead to higher student engagement and achievement (Pianta, Stuhlman, & Hamre)”. Positive relationships foster better learning and receptivity to criticism. Promoting strong and positive relationships by listening to their stories, addressing their concerns, and treating every student as an individual with unique abilities, can transform the trajectory of learning and education, thus transforming lives. Responding to their transgression gently rather than reacting sharply or reprimanding builds a conducive environment for learning and growth.

Students reveal that they open up to teachers who take an interest in their lives, are engaging, and are playful yet assert command, and they want to put in efforts to excel in that subject. On the other hand, students also revealed their interest in the subject diminishing if the teacher needed to be more communicative, even if they were experts in their domains or subject. Students understand when the teacher is honest and shows concern. 

Most students lose interest in learning because no one cares. On the other hand, being a caring teacher does not mean coddling. A devoted teacher uses her mature skill of encouraging the student, navigating learning, holding students accountable and providing support to strengthen the urge to learn and perform better.

Positive relationships build new pathways for learning.

 Autonomy to learn at an individual pace and not competing with other students/peers are some factors that motivate students to give in their best. Involving students in setting classroom rules and expressing opinions are some social dimensions that significantly affect the learning pace.

Students given voice and choice are more likely to open up and develop trust in their teachers than those who feel that their perspective does not matter. 

One way of giving freedom to the students to learn at their pace is by setting the lesson’s parameters. Once the teacher sets the parameters, she can allow students to pick the topic of their interests, conduct necessary research and choose the method of sharing the knowledge of the subject with the rest of the class. Empowering students can be one of the most effective motivators. Empowering students also means believing in their capabilities.

Positive Relationships Improve Student Behavior

Disruptive behavior like indiscipline, racism, bullying interferes with instruction, consequently creating a climate unfavorable to learning for all students in the classroom (Alderman & Green). Disruptive behavior interrupts teaching, distracts students’ attention and affects students’ learning and development. Students who exhibit disruptive behavior impede classmates and hinder their learning opportunities (Wang, Haertel, &Walberg).

Positive relationship emphasizes constructive guidance sustained by praise rather than persistent criticism (Marzano, Marzano, & Pickering). 

Effective teacher-student relationships minimize disruptive conduct and influence school community,      Such positive relationships reduce student anxieties that can lead to a desire to escape an environment perceived as aversive and to higher rates of absenteeism and academic failure (Miller). 

 Positive teacher-student relationships are associated with increased student achievement and quality of life outcomes. 

Family Engagement, Collaborating with families to build positive relationships

Every educator will agree with the importance of school-family collaboration for student performance. The quality of interaction and collaboration is one of the most critical factors for  cultivating collaborative relationships with families. Parents need to understand what and how it is being taught and what expectations of them as partners in education. General expectations can be set  while task-related expectations should be communicated as needed. Parents must be aware of how they can assist their children. Teachers need to solicit not only learning feedback from families but also get to know the students’ interests, likes and dislikes to help them achieve their academic goals. An email invitation to share what works and what does not can initiate a positive dialogue, establish areas where a child might need more help, and inspire new thinking. 

Parents must have to participate in the decision-making process. They must be aware of various options that exist within the school system, such as advanced or remedial programs, well in advance and work with schools on their students’ goals and placements. A shared vision will motivate all parties to work towards a goal. 

classroom management

Efficient Classroom Management Critical To Building Positive Teacher-Student Relationships

Wang, Haertel, and Walberg found that classroom management was critical to building strong relationships with students that eventually result in positive learning outcomes. “Classroom management is how teachers control conduct and influence student behavior to create an environment conducive to learning. The primary aims of effective classroom management are to increase socially adaptive conduct (learned behavior that enables a student to function effectively in the classroom) and institute practices to minimize student misbehavior.”

When instructional control is poor, both teacher and student win. A substantial body of research supports the power of evidence-based behavior management to improve student academic performance with an overall positive effect size of 0.52 (Hattie, 2012; Marzano et al.).

Effective strategies include:

  • Classroom structure and predictability (rules and procedures)
  • Proactive management procedures.
  • Effective and stimulating instructional practices.
  • Procedures to deal with disruptive behavior.

Nurturing productivity

“Positive teacher-student relationship emphasizes constructive guidance sustained by praise rather than persistent criticism.” (Marzano, Marzano, & Pickering). 

“Effective teacher-student relationships minimize disruptive conduct that interferes with instruction, consequently creating a climate favorable to learning for all students in the classroom.” (Alderman & Green). 

“Such positive relationships reduce student anxieties that can lead to a desire to escape an environment perceived as aversive and to higher rates of absenteeism and academic failure.” (Miller). 

Nurturing positive teacher-student relationships are associated with increased student achievement and quality of life outcomes.