Teacher-Student Relationship

Showing a special handshake for each of her 20 students, Mueller Elementary school teacher, Ms. Jerusha Willenborg, finds herself in a viral video. Making that connection especially for a white teacher with minority students can indeed bring positive emotions from any viewer of the video. We all remember those teachers we had in grade school that made us comfortable, safe and confident. These teachers provide a climate in which we can regard the classroom as a second home. Research is clear on how important a teacher-student relationship is to a child's social and emotional development. The effect on academic outcomes is less clear but there is no doubt regarding the impact of a teacher on how we begin to view ourselves and school. How a young child copes with the social challenges inside a classroom is definitely linked to the quality of the relationship that child has with his or her teacher.

Above copied from KWCH12

In a recent study, Rucinski and coworkers find that "Higher child-reported relationship quality with teachers predicted lower child-reported depressive symptoms in spring, controlling for fall levels." Students that do not have good relationships with their teachers, on the other hand, are more prone to conflict, agression, and poorer performance in English Language Arts, but not in Mathematics. This study includes more than 500 3rd to 5th grade students and 35 teachers.

When examining how a teacher factors in academic outcomes, it is important to keep in mind that so many factors play important roles in a student's learning. There is, of course, the huge influence of socio-economic status. There are also known correlations with gender and race. For elementary school children, the quality of preschool education also matters. Nonetheless, the study by Rucinski et al. finds that there is a connection, although weak, between a teacher-student relationship and social-emotional as well as academic outcomes. And this study is especially unique as it extracts the specific contribution of the individual relationship a student has with his or her teacher, apart from the general climate of a school. And as Wichita, Kansas schoolteacher Ms. Jerusha Willenborg demonstrates, it is important to have a "personal handshake" with each of her students.