Relationship-building is an intriguing, yet tricky concept. Some people make friends easily and are naturally talkative and friendly; others are more tentative and introverted and have great difficulty making friends. Based on your vocation, developing relationships or interacting with people on a daily basis might be a matter of necessity, not choice.

For teachers, relationship-building is a constant challenge. Teachers not only interact with their colleagues, administrators, and parents, but also students each day in their classrooms, hallways, and communities. Each day teachers interact with students who possess multiple personalities (i.e. introvert, extrovert, combative, athletic, artistic, etc.), and each carry with them their own unique challenges. The teacher must direct this plethora of personalities toward a common learning goal.

Many psychologists have studied personalities and relationship-building. Many have published their findings in peer reviewed articles, journals, and textbooks. Education Week (2018), interviewed a host of teachers on their opinions and strategies for relationship-building in the classroom.

According to Timothy Hilton, who teaches high school social studies in South Central Los Angeles: “Building relationships with students is by far the most important thing a teacher can do. Without a solid foundation and relationships built on trust and respect, no quality learning will happen.” On the surface this seems like a simple concept, but as one digs deeper the true challenge emerges.

Trust and respect are both nouns and verbs and are somewhat synonymous with one another. For example, by asking your friend to feed your pet goldfish while you travel out of town for the weekend you are trusting that they will do as you asked. Your friend is honored to feed your goldfish and will complete the task and respect your wishes.

Someday you will return the favor when your friend has a task that they need help completing. They will ask for your opinion or assistance thus developing a relationship built on trust and mutual respect. But what if your friend forgot to feed your goldfish, or worse, rummaged through your personal effects while you were away? The ability to build this relationship based on trust and mutual respect would have been severely damaged. As a teacher you will not feed your student’s pet goldfish, but opportunities will arise for you to build a relationship built on trust and respect with your students.

Every day, teachers interact with their students. These interactions provide a valuable opportunity to build trusting, respectful relationships. Taking the time to listen to your students explain their weekend visit to grandma’s house, or that they saw you in the stands at their sporting event will make a measurable difference in the classroom. In 2018, Educational Leadership surveyed various teachers and administrators as to their best kept secret to classroom management.

Laura Louko stated, “Taking the time to know the interests of my students always helps me manage student behaviors and positively impact their achievement. Saying you’ll be somewhere and showing up is what it’s all about. Students need to trust that you care about them as people.” To us, it is just another game in the stands, to your students it’s a lifetime memory that they shared in front of their favorite teacher.

Teachers face challenges unlike ever before. To state that teaching is difficult in today’s digital age would be an understatement, but with every great challenge comes an ever-greater reward. The importance of building relationships based on trust and mutual respect cannot be overstated; unfortunately, many teachers have no idea where to start. Too many teachers believe building this relationship seems like an overwhelming and daunting task, by doing so they miss a golden opportunity to impact a student’s life forever.

So how do teachers build relationships based on trust and mutual respect? The first step is to break this task down into its simplest terms. Teachers are relationship-builders at heart. Do what you do best and ask questions! Use the answers you receive from your students to create the foundation of your relationships. Ask how the student’s weekend trip to grandma’s house went, or how they feel after the big game. These are simple items to a teacher, but life changing to a student.

Andres Dewayne Rischer, who teaches sixth-grade math at Santa Maria Middle School in Phoenix, states, “It is essential to learn the family and cultural values of your pupils. Do your best to grasp and appreciate each student's identity. You may not fully understand many of your student's values, but you must accept and respect what they have been taught.”

The key is to get to know your students. Once you build your foundation by getting to know your students the door to learning can open. Everyone’s attitude will change (student and teacher alike), classroom discipline will improve, and student academic achievement will increase.

I realize from first glance relationship-building with your students seems like a daunting task, but remember you were once the student, too, and someone took the time to build a relationship with you. Without these relationships, where would you be today? Take a chance. Step out of your comfort zone and ask questions. You never know what you will find, and who knows, you might just inspire the next great inventor, author, or leader!


Feralzzo, L. (2018, October 08). Response: “Building relationships with students is the most important thing a teacher can do.” Retrieved March 11, 2021, from

Rischer, A. D. (2008). Management strategies help to promote student achievement. Education Digest, 74(2), 47-49.

Tell me about: Tell us about your best-kept classroom management secret. (2018). Educational Leadership, 76(1), 92-93.