Healthy Classroom Relationships Nurture Healthy Learning

May 16, 2023

Andrea Parker, Ed.D.

Ed.D. in Leadership

Black male teacher stands in front of several students with their hands raised and calls on one of them

Many people think it takes a miracle to shed weight and waste their money on brands and diets, but the simple science is just to burn more calories than you eat. The concept remains the same when it comes to helping students achieve academic success. Getting our students to learn can be much easier than we think when we initiate and maintain healthy relationships in the classroom. It’s not always about executing the top research-based strategy or playing the best game to manipulate students into staying engaged. It’s about the positive and nurturing relationships between teachers and students, as well as students and their peers, to foster academic growth.

Consider the healthy relationships in your life. It’s much easier to spend time with those individuals, talk to them and even learn from them. That’s because of the trust, acceptance and patience in those relationships. Even the mistakes you make in these relationships can be an opportunity for growth, not a point of contention.

So, in the classroom, how do teachers get here? It’s easy. Educators must realize that in order to make a relationship healthy, it needs nutrients from both sides to survive and that starts with the educator. If you don’t nurture your students, consequences will likely include rebellion, disrespect and apathy. When this occurs, teachers will endure stress and anger in a constant cycle.

The next step is understanding what your students desire. When we have a desire for something, we put effort into it. Your students need safety, affirmation, a sense of belonging, accountability, patience and motivation. Consider your classroom and reflect on whether you provide these on a consistent basis. Do your students feel comfortable asking questions and making mistakes? Do you provide them with feedback or compliments for their efforts, conversations about their goals and support? Remember their birthdays. Utilize their talents. Give them support when they’re struggling. As you help them be authentic in the classroom, remember to let them to see you at your vulnerable moments and show them how growth is a process.

Don’t forget to model how to develop student-to-student relationships, especially so that they can understand how to manage conflict. Show students how to healthily express their identities, preferences, perspectives, anger and forgiveness so that they can learn what healthy relationships look like.

If you are consistent with these things, students will try harder in their academics and behavior because they know someone is in their corner. Your scholars will stay engaged not just because they’re at school, but because this is a chance to learn to be a better person. Create a classroom where your students can say, “This is not just my teacher – this is my supporter and we support each other.”

Learn more about how to be the best teacher you can be by exploring American College of Education’s online education programs.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Andrea Parker, Ed.D.
Andrea Parker, Ed.D., Ed.D. in Leadership

Andrea is a National Board Certified Teacher and has been an educator for the Chicago Public School system since 2004. She currently teaches middle school English language arts.

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