TIPP 5: Develop and Model Positive Relationships
Developing and modeling positive relationships is fundamental to a prosocial classroom. From a trauma-informed perspective, how teachers relate to their students is as important as how effectively they “teach” about an academic subject or topic. This is particularly true of teachers who work with students impacted by adversity and trauma. When teachers build a warm, trusting relationship, they can help students learn to regulate their behavior by serving as role models who can solve problems and negotiate challenges. How teachers manage behaviors in the classroom also influences student conduct. Find more on this topic in TIPP 7: Communicate and Reinforce Goals and Expectations.
Developing positive relationships among students themselves requires that classrooms are effectively managed and that teachers actively work to promote a culture of trust and appreciation for the ways in which students differ. Bridging differences requires “mediating between students of various sexual orientations and ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds” (Tavangar, 2017) and being willing to talk openly about characteristics that make each of us who we are. Tavangar (2017) suggests that teachers help students practice putting themselves in another’s shoes and envisioning experiences from another person’s perspective. Tavangar also recommends having students talk to one another about their identities and experiences. Engaging students in reflective and dialogic practice can build trust and open dialogue that deepens relationships.
Other strategies teachers can use to deepen relationships with and among their students include knowing and calling students by name, happily greeting students when they enter the classroom, and promoting opportunities for students to interact in positive and productive ways. When students feel that school professionals not only care about them as learners but also as people with lives outside of school, they are more likely to feel emotionally and physically safe, supported, and appreciated.