Primary Building Blocks for Effective Classroom Cultures: Teacher/Student Relationships

By Rod Lucero

There are Five Basic Elements to Building a Strong Relationship

So, the question is, how can you use each of the five basic relationship building elements with each of your students. Incorporating them into your daily routine will be challenging, of course, especially with larger classes. If you can master them early in the semester, however, the rewards—in terms of developing a rich discursive culture—will have been worth the effort.

Eye Contact

  • Recognizes someone’s existence in your world
  • Conveys meaning at a nonverbal level
  • Assesses another person’s level of engagement

A Smile

  • Invites another person into your world
  • Conveys that you value the other person

An Utterance: Hello, Hi, What's Up, Nice day, etc.

  • Recognizes that the other person is important
  • It's also a way to "break the ice"

Hello + Name = Feeling Valued!

  • Our names represent our person-hood, the use of which is flattering, and helps us feel like we matter
  • Hearing our names is empowering, because it invites us in to a specific context, rather than leave us an outside observer. We all like/need to belong (remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs)!
  • It’s difficult to negatively judge, or malign a community of which we are a member. If things are going wrong within this community, members will strive to make things right within its established mores.

A Touch: Handshake, a High-Five. etc.

  • Touch is so important! So much so that, from a hand-shake to a kiss on the cheek, cultures across the globe have institutionalized it.
  • Many studies point to the importance of touch…from Harlow’s work with Rhesus monkeys to Erikson’s focus on trust in newborns.

So, when you are looking for ways to build good relationships with your students and your colleagues, trying using these five elements, you will be surprised about the inherent power in each!

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Dr. Rodrick Lucero is the Master Teacher Initiative (MTI) coordinator for the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State University. He is an Associate Professor in the School of Education and the Associate Director for the School of Teacher Education and Principal Preparation (STEPP).


Peter Connor - TILT Web Content Writer and Editor