Five Deep Dives Into Caring, Trusting Relationships

This week, we’re back with more on how to build caring, trusting relationships with your…

By Hana Beach

This week, we’re back with more on how to build caring, trusting relationships with your students. We’ve covered tips on how to spark connection in your classroom and get to know your students as people. Now, we’re going deeper. We’ll cover why relationships matter, and how to build strong relationships to support your students through any challenges they may face. Let’s get started!

Explore our comprehensive guide on how caring, trusting relationships support students’ academic achievement and overall growth. 

Why It Matters: Relationships are key to learning. Lauren Bierbaum, XQ’s head of data, research, and evaluation, explains, “Research tells us that having even just one close relationship at school can do wonders for supporting students’ learning and development.” Schools that prioritize relationships tend to share these traits: 

  • Each student has at least one primary connection—one adult who knows them well
  • A pervasive sense of trust
  • A focus on helping students reflect on and develop their identities
  • An emphasis on belonging

Extra Credit: Belonging and its critical impact on student mental health

To build a relationship-focused community that values students for who they are, include families in the conversation. 

Why It Matters: Getting to know students means getting to know their families. Positive relationships between family and school support better academic achievement for students on multiple levels. Our guide on how to engage families offers tips like: 

  • Create parent and family advocacy groups
  • Expand volunteer opportunities
  • Offer home visits
  • Schedule regular meetings
  • Host family workshops

Extra Credit: A Strategy for Building Productive Relationships With Parents

To take care of students, first take care of yourself. 

Why It Matters: Too often, teachers put their students’ needs above their own. But you have to take care of yourself to show up for others. Self-care prevents burnout and emphasizes joy, so that you can build a sustainable teaching practice—for your students, and for yourself. Explore our teacher-focused tips for self-care, including: 

  • Set clear boundaries
  • Schedule time for joy
  • Practice self-care alongside students
  • Build a gratitude practice

Extra Credit: 48 Pieces of Advice From Educators on How to Survive This Challenging Time

Form relationships that value your students for who they really are.

Why It Matters: How can you give students the confidence, skills, and self-awareness to make a difference in the world? By building a foundation of strong relationships. Examples from XQ schools show how educators build empowering relationships with students through these strategies: 

  • Build targeted support networks
  • Focus on students’ emotional needs
  • Adopt an asset-based mindset

Extra Credit: Students Reflect on What It Means to Be the First Graduates of a High School Designed Just for Them

Set high expectations to help students be their best selves. 

Why It Matters: Adult expectations have a huge impact on student success. By believing in your students, you can challenge them to achieve beyond what they ever thought possible. It’s also about equity: all students deserve access to educators who believe in their ability to do great things. To show students you believe in them:

  • Communicate deep trust in your students’ abilities
  • Allow students to take academic risks
  • Celebrate failure as a part of learning

Extra Credit: A Guide to Competency-Based Learning in High School

New Podcast Episode!

How can teachers connect with students and help them feel “seen” in support of deeper learning? It all comes back to caring, trusting relationships. Hear directly from high school students, who give their own examples on the new episode of @ThisTeenageLife.

Take a listen