Empowering Education: The Transformative Influence of Positive Teacher-Student Connections

Positive racial teacher-student classroom relationships impact student social and academic outcomes. Educators often focus on improving parent engagement, but student engagement is just as important.  When students feel a strong classroom connection with their teacher, they are more likely to reciprocate those feelings resulting in higher trust levels, increased learning engagement, less disciplinary challenges, and higher academic achievement levels.

The foundation for positive classroom relationships begins with teacher-student classroom interactions. Positive interactions help to develop trust and rapport. Students then become willing participants in the educational communication process. However, teachers must recognize the students’ individual strengths and cultural differences or else the educational process becomes hindered.

Positive relationships enhance learning and academic performance in schools. The students who accelerate in a teacher’s class have personalized learning experiences which increase their engagement and participation. Just think about the teacher’s “pet”. This student will continue to vie for the teachers praise and in return the student will continue to excel. The attention provided by the teacher helps to boost the motivation and confidence of the student.

Positive relationships play a vital role in student emotional and social development. Students who feel supported and cared for by their teachers develop a sense of self-worth and confidence in themselves. Teachers often demonstrate empathy towards students which helps them to identify the emotions of others and understand the reasons for others’ emotions. This demonstration helps students to develop emotional intelligence. Students who operate with empathy and emotional intelligence improve social interactions with other students through teamwork activities such as cooperative learning.

Positive racial relationships helps students to overcome classroom relationships challenges and provide an opportunity to appropriately respond to disparities. Black students often face challenges related to classroom discipline. Many researchers have reported that Black students are disciplined more in comparison to White students. When teachers promote positive racial teacher student classroom relationships, they are afforded the opportunity to build better relationships in both the virtual, remote, and in person setting.

Researchers have recommended several professional development opportunities that improve teacher-student relationships. For example, here are some recommended strategies:

  • Spend 1-On-1 Time with a Student
  • Look for Something to Comment On
  • Develop an Interest in Their Interests
  • Share Your Stories
  • Have a Sense of Humor
  • Attend Student Events
  • Really get to know your students. 
  • Create ways for students to bring pieces of their lives into the classroom.
  • Honor their language.
  • Tell them you love them. 
  • Invite families and community members to become partners in educating students. 
  • Use community resources as curriculum. 
  • Keep parents involved through multiple channels. 
  • Expose students to role models of color
  • Invite guest speakers and mentors of color into the classroom. 
  • Make sure your classroom or school library has a variety of texts that include positive, diverse characters. 
  • Support efforts to improve teacher diversity
  • Disrupt the single narrative of students of color
  • Empower students to tell their own stories
  • Pay attention to your own storytelling, your own language
  • Challenge others

Colleges offer racial equity courses as part of their teacher preparation program. Saint Michael’s College offers a Racial Equity & Educational Justice Graduate Certificate Program and Cornell University offers over 50 individual related courses to name a few.  

In retrospect, Black students have not fully benefited from the positive classroom relationships courses or strategies offered by other individuals and other institutes of higher learning.

In a project conducted by Dr. Campbell – Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships – Black students had dramatic increases in academic achievement and decreases in student discipline for the several teachers who participated in the initiative to promote positive racial teacher student classroom relationships.

Dr. Derrick Campbell

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