5 Ways To Build Positive Relationships With Students

You’ve probably heard me say (or read), “mental health first, school second.” It’s something I truly believe. It’s so important to address the mental health needs of young people before focusing on academics. If students are suffering from trauma or their basic needs are not being met, they will not learn. You can start by building relationships with all students in your classroom. Here are 5 ways to build positive relationships with students to promote good mental health.

5 Ways to Build Relationships with Students to Promote Good Mental Health

A teacher sits with a student smiling. Tips for Building Positive Relationships in the Classroom

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Greet them at the door

Mornings (well, all day, really) can be busy for teachers. I get it! However, taking a few minutes each morning to stand outside your classroom door and say good morning to your students can make a difference. Maybe you give them a high-five, a handshake, or even just a simple, “hello, good morning!” It may be the first time a student has been greeted in a positive matter (or at all) that day. Be the person that lets them know their day is going to be great, and you’ve taken the first step to building positive relationships for the day, week and year.

Ask about their day

It’s really tempting to get straight into academic mode with lectures, lessons, and projects, but it only takes a couple of minutes to allow your students to share what is going on in their own lives. Whether they have a sporting or other extracurricular event that evening, a family celebration, or something they are struggling with, having a moment at the start of each day (or class period for secondary teachers), can make a difference in building positive relationships with your students.

Tell your story

Believe it or not, your students want to know about you. When you share some of your own personal victories, struggles, hobbies, and about your family, it goes a long way in building relationships! You don’t have to get too personal, but even just sharing what you like to do for fun, some facts about your spouse or kids if you have them, and the reasons you love to teach can help your students understand and get to know you better.

A teacher with 2 students is helping them fostering positive connections with students.

Give choice

Giving students options when it comes to product or process of learning can help build trust between teacher and student. Sometimes, there are requirements by your board or legislation that can’t be amended, but if a student can demonstrate their learning in a different way, why not let them? Allow your students to explore different options and methods of showing what they know in the classroom. Share some of these differentiated learning methods and styles with your students.

Respect your students behind closed doors

Oh, the dreaded teachers’ lounge. It’s really easy to start complaining about students (“Don’t Call Me That Kid!“) when you get with your colleagues. Keep in mind that negative attitudes can spread just as fast as positive ones. Let go of your preconceived notions or what you hear about a child from your colleagues, and give them a chance to earn your trust and build that relationship.

These 5 ways to build relationships with your students to promote good mental health start with positive attitudes from teachers. Don’t give up on your students. Start with respect and understanding. Your students may have stories that you don’t yet know. Let them share them with you, so you can help them be the best they can be!

A teacher sits by a globe in front of her students fostering connections


Graphic illustrating children of diverse backgrounds, including a girl in a wheelchair with their teacher. Overlay text says How to Create an Inclusive Classroom
Child yelling at a teacher, Don't Call Me That Kid
Image of puzzle pieces in the brain and school symbols outside of the head. Mental Health First, School Second