Creating a Positive Student/Teacher Relationship

Hello again, Magooshers. When I was a high school student, there were some teachers I didn’t like. As a high school teacher, there were some students who REALLY didn’t like me.

Such was life. For you, I’m sorry to say, there will be teachers who don’t connect with you at all.

But that doesn’t mean you have to have a bad relationship with a teacher. You’re not destined to get a bad grade (or worse, fail). No matter what, there are ways to create a positive student/teacher relationship that will make you and your teacher better people for it.

In this article, we’ll look at the student/teacher relationship from a few angles. We’ll start at the beginning of the year. We’ll examine at what happens when when you and your teacher mix like oil and water. Finally, we’ll discuss how to keep a good relationship going. So if you’re willing to stick with me over the next few paragraphs, I’ll teach you how to make every teacher your ally.

The Emotional Piggy Bank

Having a good student/teacher relationship doesn’t mean sucking up to your teachers 24/7. Every relationship has give and take. Back at the school where I taught, we called this the emotional piggy bank. Good/positive acts were ‘deposits,’ while slip up of all shapes and sizes were ‘withdrawals.’ In the smallest of nutshells, having a positive student/teacher relationship means having more ‘deposits’ than ‘withdrawals.’ Of course, the emotional piggy bank goes both ways. If your teacher loses his/her cool, makes mistakes, or does other things that irks you, think about it in terms of all of his or her actions before passing any judgment.


Creating a Positive Student/Teacher Relationship -Magoosh

This is an example of a ‘withdrawal’ from the emotional piggy bank.


Now let’s talk about the academic year, and what you can do to create a good student/teacher relationship will all your teachers.

The Beginning of the Year

The beginning of every school year is a new chance, a new opportunity. There are new classes, new peers, and new teachers. And with like just about everything else in life, first impressions count…for a lot.

So it’s the first few days of school, and you’re wondering how to make a good impression. Here’s an easy to remember tip. If your teachers give you classroom supply lists, make sure to have your supplies by the deadline (usually a week into school). If you or your family has financial or other issues making obtaining supplies difficult, let your teachers know ASAP!

Yet if you want to get in your teachers’ good graces, feel free to make a few extra ‘deposits’ early on in the year. For example, if a teacher has an optional classroom supply list (paper towels, Purell, etc.), bringing in a few of these items will create a positive impression of you in your teacher’s mind

Bridging the Divide

Uh oh. Something went wrong. Maybe you swore in class. Maybe you’ve been tardy one too many times. Maybe your personality and your teacher’s personality are exact opposites. No matter the reason, sometimes it feels like you and your teacher will be at one another’s throats for the rest of the year.

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the case. First of all, repairing a relationship isn’t completely your responsibility. Like I already said, the relationship road goes both ways. Even so, I’d recommend that you take the first steps.

If you did something wrong, the first step is to apologize. I’d recommend doing this before or after school, when your teacher can focus his or her attention on what you’re saying.

If your teacher did something wrong (or your personalities don’t match), first give him or her the benefit of the doubt, especially if his or her emotional piggy bank has way more deposits than withdrawals. Yet if that’s not the case, let another adult know, preferably your school’s guidance counselor.

Sometimes, no matter who caused the friction in your student/teacher relationship, a meeting may have to take place. You and the teacher will be there, an administrator will be there, and likely your parents/guardians will be there. Don’t let the number of adults in the room scare you off. The point of these meetings is to figure out what would be best going forward. After all, no one wants you to fail or drop out just because of a personality conflict.

The meeting will result in things you and your teacher can do to move forward. The best thing to do is take your parent’s/guidance counselor’s/principal’s advice and move on. Hopefully your teacher will do the same.

After that, it’s all about the emotional piggy bank, not being a perfect student. Remember that and you’re golden.

Keeping a Good Relationship Good

Besides maintaining your ‘deposits’/’withdrawals’ in the emotional piggy bank, there are a few other things to keep in mind as you maintain a positive student/teacher relationship.

One thing to remember that despite how good of a rapport you have with any teacher, he or she is still your teacher. If you forget this, any act of criticism or discipline can feel like a huge betrayal. Case and point: when my AP European History class got a little too rambunctious, our teacher (a great guy who was the reason I went into teaching) plainly stated that, “I’m not your friend, I’m your instructor.” Those words hurt…a lot. But when I became a teacher, I understood exactly what he meant.

As a teen, it’s just difficult to understand the fine line between friendship and friendliness. The latter is great in a student/teacher relationship. The former? Well, if you haven’t graduated yet, it’s kind of impossible. (And completely unprofessional from the teacher’s side.) That being said, it’s good to learn these lessons as a teen. Many of the professional relationships you’ll have in life will have the same dividing line.

Final Thoughts on a Positive Student/Teacher Relationship

Creating and maintaining a positive student/teacher relationship takes a lot of work, yet the payoff is worth it. There will be less stress in your life, and more adults you can turn to if something goes wrong or your need advice.

Well, Magooshers, I hope your relationship toolbox is a bit fuller from having read this article.

Till next time.

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  • Thomas Broderick

    Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh's readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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