Maintaining Student Relationships
Teaching Tips

Teaching Tip #18 – Maintaining Student Relationships

Strategies: Maintaining Student Relationships


One very effective way to be proactive and prevent inappropriate behaviors in the classroom is by establishing student relationships. Clay Cook, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, describes this in three phases of relationship building, which is what these tips are based on. This series of teaching tips will discuss:

Establishing Relationships

Maintaining Relationships

Restoring Relationships

Maintaining student relationships can be done by using many of the same strategies used to establish student relationships in the first place. While continuing these strategies to maintain relationships with students, it is also important to identify three groups of students: which students you have established relationships with, which students you have not, and which students need positive relationships most. Here are two more strategies to help develop a greater understanding of the relationship needs of your students.

Roster E-M-R

Grab a roster of one of your classes (maybe a class you find most challenging with behavior management). Next to each student’s name, put an E – M – R, referring to your phase of relationship you have with that student.

Your goal is to maintain your relationships with students. Any student with an M next to their name, continue maintaining your relationship with them.

Students with an R next to their name means that the relationship has been stressed recently, due to classroom management, a comment, or maybe for another reason. Your relationship with this student needs to be restored at this point. Use restoration strategies to rebuild and repair your relationship with that student.

Students with an E next to their name have not built a relationship with you yet. Begin using strategies to establish a relationship with your students. Be sure to specifically focus on building relationships with these students, because unlike your other students, a relationship has not been established yet. If these students don’t have any relationship with you, there is a good chance they may be missing out on relationships from other teachers as well.

Relational Triage

Print out a picture of a tree like this one. On the lowest branches of the tree, write the name of students that you connect with immediately to build positive relationships. These students are the low-hanging fruit. These students require very little effort to build positive relationships with you.

In the middle branches, list more challenging relational students. These students might require some work to establish and maintain positive relationships, but positive relationships can be built. These students are reachable from the ground. They require some effort to build relationships, but it is possible without significant work.

On the highest branches, list students that you struggle to establish positive relationships with. These students require massive effort to establish positive relationships, and often times massive effort is not enough. These students are the tough students to connect with. They require extra effort, tools, and strategies to establish, maintain, and restore relationships with.

Once your students are listed on the tree, pick a few of the highest branching students. These are students that you will target. Similar to a triage unit in a hospital, these students are the ones most at risk. They require the most effort, and the quickest response, to begin establishing a positive relationships. These students are the ones that need the most help. Use what time you have, what strategies you know, to establish a positive relationships with these students.

Ultimately, maintaining relationships means continuing to use working strategies while establishing student relationships. However, as you transition through the year, it is a good idea to reflect on your classes, and determine who you are missing, and who is most at risk for not having a positive relationship with you, or any other adult in the building. Once identified, these are the students that will need the most effort from you and your relationship building strategies.

Continue here to part 3 – Restoring Student Relationships

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