Fostering Strong Relationships in Schools: A Three-Part Series of Stories from the Field
Building and sustaining strong, positive relationships between and among students, teachers, and leaders is fundamental to promoting student engagement, social-emotional development, and academic growth. At Transforming Education, we believe so deeply in the power of strong relationships that they represent one of the six key components of our SEL Integration Approach, a guide for classroom teachers to support them in integrating social-emotional learning into academic curriculum and daily classroom routines.
In order to share current thinking what educators can do – and are already doing – to intentionally build connections with and among students and staff, TransformEd is releasing a series of stories from the field that highlight students’ and educators’ perspectives about developing and sustaining strong relationships in school. These perspectives were collected during a series of visits we conducted to school campuses across the country in which students reported strong social-emotional skills and favorable perceptions of their school environments.
This three-part series summarizes the latest research on the importance of building strong relationships in school; lifts up student, teacher, and leader voices; and provides additional resources that teachers and leaders can use to foster strong relationships in schools.
The three part series includes:
- October 2 Building strong teacher-student relationships in the classroom
- October 16 Fostering positive peer relationships
- October 30 Cultivating relationships through administrator actions
Building Strong Teacher-Student Relationships in the Classroom
Fostering Positive Peer Relationships
Cultivating Relationships Through Administrator Actions
Fostering positive teacher-student relationships helps create environments conducive to optimal learning experiences and social-emotional wellbeing. From visiting schools, we heard in students’ and teachers’ own words about the importance of teachers taking the time to check-in with students, using positive approaches that demonstrate kindness and patience, and incorporating fun in the classroom can help students feel more connected and valued by their teachers. While building these kinds of relationships takes time, by incorporating small, intentional practices into the day, teachers can find ways to strengthen their relationships and have a positive and long-lasting impact on the whole child. In this brief, we offer strategies to implement in the classroom to build and sustain strong relationships with students, that can be integrated seamlessly into daily activities with little additional time required.
Fostering positive relationships among classroom peers is important for creating a classroom environment conducive to social-emotional development and academic learning. Research suggests that positive peer relationships are associated with better school engagement – including increased attendance and classroom participation – and can help build students’ sense of belonging in school. Moreover, intentionally supporting peer relationships can provide students with the opportunity to learn and practice both intrapersonal skills and interpersonal skills crucial for whole child development. In this brief, we offer strategies to implement in the classroom to promote strong and positive relationships among school peers, that can be integrated seamlessly into daily activities with little additional time required.
When administrators prioritize cultivating trusting and caring relationships with school staff, it can help create a culture in which all members of the school community can thrive. Research suggests that positive leader and staff relationships can enable the conditions for teachers to further develop their teaching skills and help mitigate factors that lead to teacher burnout. Further, establishing a culture in which relationships between leaders and school staff are prioritized can ensure that the adults in the school are modeling for students what strong and positive relationships look like.
Fostering Strong Relationships – Teacher Perspective Blog Series
To accompany the Fostering Strong Relationships series, teachers from the TeachPlus MA fellowship have authored a series of related blog posts, sharing about their experiences integrating social-emotional learning and building strong relationships in schools and classrooms.
Growth Mindset in the Math Classroom
Utilizing School Counselors to Promote SEL in the Classroom
by Jasvir MacIntosh
by Tasha Jones
by April Brunelle
Excerpt: One of my focus areas with my Algebra students this year has been working on building their belief in having a growth mindset. I was very intentional about doing this. I told students we would periodically do activities, watch videos, or have discussions about building a growth mindset. I also told them why this was important to me and why I believed that, regardless of their future career path, understanding and adopting a growth mindset really will benefit them. Students told me that, by doing these activities with them, I demonstrated that I cared about them as people. My students knew that I cared, and they saw how they could impact their own success. This knowledge did actually lead them to be more successful in my class.
Excerpt: When we as teachers teach by example, our students become more engaged and can witness the process at work. This simple assignment, meant to stretch my students, also challenged me. I reflected on my practice, and it helped our school level biases. When students have the agency to problem solve, it also opens the doors for us as teachers to lend to the process. When we think about the many ways to impact change in the daily educational experience, we often forget those voices who are being educated. When asked, my students thought critically about change and learned how to advocate in the process. Their voices were valuable in the conversation to improve education, instructional procedures, and operations.
Excerpt: There are so many innovative ways that, as a team, [teachers and counselors] can plan how to collaborate. What would this look like? It could look like…a Counselor in your room for one period a day, rotating homerooms throughout the week, solely checking for executive functioning skill development which has been pre-planned into your content curriculum. It could look like a Counselor in the classroom as the teacher is teaching, and if a student has a meltdown or issue, the Counselor can attempt to address it within the classroom, or physically close to the classroom, in order to decrease out of classroom time for students.