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Instructing students according to our state’s academic standards while also teaching and educating each according to their academic abilities and educational needs is a daunting task.  Too often educators get consumed by these responsibilities causing them to forget the joy found in helping students through life-changing educational experiences, leading to a decline in the morale of a once dynamic teacher.   Some of this could be avoided if teachers incorporate the power of building positive reciprocal relationships with their students.

What is a positive reciprocal relationship?
A positive reciprocal relationship is one of mutual respect, trust, and interdependence in which the parties work collaboratively towards a common goal.  The phrase “stranger danger” is one that many of us were taught as children or teach our children to safeguard them from harm caused by unfamiliar people.   Although we are educators, students often perceive us as strangers whose only concern is to give orders, grade papers, and harp about test score data. Too often, we are not seen as one with whom the student can form a partnership to achieve their success.  Building these relationships with your students will alleviate the anxiety that results from students viewing teachers as strangers and allow students to trust that you have their best interest at heart.

How does one build a positive reciprocal relationship?
Good practices that teachers often use to kick off the school year are sharing teacher bios with students and parents, collecting student academic data, administering student interest surveys, and the tried-and-true, “this is what we did on summer vacation.”  While these are good practices, building a relationship is a process.  Relationship building takes time and effort throughout the year, not something you check-off a list as completed.  Here are some ideas to get you started: 
  • Listen to students and remember what they say.  Pay attention to the interest surveys or things you learn about them in conversation.  Make a note on your roster of something interesting that you want to remember about each student.  It could be something in common that you share such as the love of a sport or type of music.  Or, the student may have a unique hobby or expertise such as gaming or skating that they could share with you and the class.
  • Follow up with them about the happenings in their lives and show support for their interests in school and the community.  Ask them about how things are going in their other classes, in their sports, or related arts.
  • Inform students about things that are happening in your life, as appropriate.  Share your struggles and successes.  It often helps students to know how you study best and how you overcome learning challenges and other difficulties.
  • Connect with the community beyond the school, allowing students to see you in settings outside the classroom.
  • Foster a collaborative classroom culture in which all ideas are valued.
  • Commit to partnership agreements.  As a class, clearly define the roles within the partnership – the students’ role and the teacher’s role.  Then provide an opportunity for everyone to commit in writing that can be referred to periodically.
A positive student-teacher relationship is not a panacea for all the woes in the education system; however, it is a powerful tool for classroom management and motivating students to work to potential.  These connections will make students think twice about disrupting the learning environment or failing to apply themselves, giving you the truest glimpse of a child’s capabilities.

In preparing for the new academic year with solid lesson/unit plans, student data analysis, classroom rules and procedures, remember to include your plan for developing and nurturing positive reciprocal relationships with students. 

Visit our S²TEM Centers SC team!  They will be at the following conference offering sessions.

100k in 10 Grand Challenges: South Carolina as a Model for Other States

Participants will explore the root causes and possible actions to address the critical shortage of STEM teachers nation-wide.   This topic is just one of many learning pathways offered to STEM education professionals during the conference.

Free Downloadable Math & Science Lessons

A collection of professionally developed K-8 lessons, aligned with the latest SC standards.




Copyright © 2018 South Carolina's Coalition for Mathematics & Science at Clemson University, All rights reserved.

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