Exploring Healthy Teacher-Student Relationships

 Podcast Creators

Amanda Brown, Madisson Faubert, Kalsoom Naeem, Maggie Pinsonneault, Mohammad Omar Shiddike

Please cite this page as:

Shiddike, M. O., Faubert, M., Pinsonneault, M., Naeem, K., & Brown, A. (2022, April 1). Exploring healthy teacher-student relationships. Classroom Practice in 2022. Retrieved [date], from https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/educ5202/chapter/exploring-healthy-teacher-student-relationships/


We believe that a healthy and communicative relationship between a teacher and their students aids in creating a safe and welcoming classroom atmosphere. We invite you to listen to our podcast episode discussing and exploring a few of the ways that teachers can strengthen the dynamic that they have with the students in their class. Also, test your knowledge or learn something new with a few trivia questions that we sprinkled throughout our conversation! Enjoy!

Podcast Link

Mental Health

It is important for teachers and educators to be aware of the struggles with mental health that their students may have. According to Rossen & Cowan (2014), in their article Improving Mental Health in Schools, they believe that it is important to know some of the most common mental health issues or factors that students may be dealing with inside and outside of the classroom. If there are no students in their class who are dealing with mental health struggles, it is important for teachers and educators to be aware of and have some knowledge on the most common mental health issues that students may experience within that specific age group that they are working with. Being aware of these struggles provides the teacher with context and sometimes provides direction to where they may be able to accommodate or modify if necessary. According to an article, Teachers’ Views of Issues Involving Students’ Mental Health by Roeser and Midgley (1997), teachers often ground their efficacy and satisfaction of teaching into their students’ mental health. While many teachers attempt to aid their students with their mental health, this can be overwhelming. They can involve providing resources, developing ideas in class, teaching breathing exercises, etc. Being aware of students’ struggles with mental health provides context for some of the different behaviours or reactions they receive from students. Excuses are not being provided for them, teachers understanding why this material affected them in this way, or why they had a negative reaction while working in small groups. It helps teachers know their students, and how to connect with them and their learning.

There are so many great ways that teachers can help students deal with their struggles with mental health. In their article Improving Mental Health in Schools, Rossen and Cowan (2014) outline some of the ways teachers can help their students through a multitiered system. Firstly, it is by knowing where to look – you do not need to remember specific details for all the different mental health issues – that would be a lot! However, it can be beneficial to have dependable resources to turn to when you are looking for them, such as a credible online resource. Another great way is to incorporate different mindfulness activities and reflections into the classroom. By doing so, the students can practice good habits and develop their own personal toolbox of skills, tricks and exercises that work for them when they need. Lastly, when helping people or students who are struggling with mental health it is important to talk about it. It does not need to be an in-depth personal conversation, it can be a simple statement of feelings, ‘Friends, I’m kind of sad today’, or even having general conversations about mental health and what we can do to help ourselves. Conversations help to remove the stigmatizations around mental health and makes managing it appear more possible and accessible.


Noddings suggests that “caring is the very bedrock of all successful education, and that contemporary schooling can be revitalized in its light” (p. 27). In Noddings’ chapter on caring, she goes on to say that “A caring relation is, in its most basic form, a connection or encounter between two human beings– A carer and a recipient of care, or cared for. For the relationship to be properly called caring, both parties must contribute to it in characteristic ways” (p. 15). Noddings says, “When I care I really hear, see, or feel what the other tries to convey” (p. 16). Therefore, when someone is really trying to relate to the person who is expressing a need for care, they are in turn showing care, and this care should be the very foundation of our relationships.

This can be beneficial for students because as Noddings says, “as the carer attends, she is likely to undergo motivational displacement; that is, her motive energy will begin to flow toward the needs and objectives of the cared-for “(p. 772). This is good because students need to feel as if their teachers are fully devoted to helping them and have their best interest at heart. When a student can really feel that a teacher cares, they will be more willing to be open and be responsive to help when they are struggling. Teachers should care for students and their expressed needs. This is because when students feel like something is bothering them, when they feel unsafe or troubled, it can be easy for the student to have difficulty learning. If you think back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if the basic human needs are not met, one cannot reach self-actualization. Therefore, if a student is expressing needs, then the teacher should be receptive to helping that student so that they may have the ability to reach their full potential.

As teachers, we always want to help and express care for our students. However, as Noddings says, “There are many times when, as carers, we cannot satisfy the expressed need of the cared-for. Sometimes we lack the resources, and sometimes we disapprove of the need or how it has been expressed “(p. 772). Regardless, it is imperative to keep the doorway of communication open even when you cannot, as the teacher, be the one to solve the students’ problems. This way the student does not feel that you are giving up on them and that they still have that backbone of support that they may not have outside of the classroom.

Educational Support

It is important to support students’ learning because that is the expectation of a teacher and that students feel supported. There are so many ways teachers can support students with their learning. To start, inclusivity should apply in every teacher’s classroom. This could mean, the teacher has set up the room for openness of all students and abilities. Students are kind and respectful to one another. Furthermore, bringing awareness to student’s culture’s and incorporating diversity in the classroom will make students feel included and celebrated by their peers. In relation to this, it is vital for learners to have a positive relationship with their teachers. In an article called, Feeling Heard: Inclusive Education, Transformative Learning, and Productive Struggle (Murdoch, English, Hintz, & Tyson, 2020), this article talks about students feeling heard, and this can be done by taking the time to listen to students. Give them the opportunity to express their thoughts and ideas. Supportive listening is a type of teacher that listens to a student’s needs. A teacher can move forward by creating meaningful lesson plans and base it off the student’s interest. Maybe students need more one-on-one time while they’re completing their work or need shorter instructions. To add, giving students positive feedback will encourage them to work hard and want to do better not only academically but also in their daily routine.

An article called, Influence of Teacher-Student Relationships and Special Educational Needs on Student Engagement and Disengagement (Pérez-Salas, Sáez-Delgado, & Olivares, 2021) comes to mind. There is a discussion in the post on the importance of such relationships between teachers and students, and the great impact teachers have on student’s lives. By building educational relationships that support students to feel heard within an environment where their academics and social–emotional struggles are valued, teachers can empower students to continue to do their best work and make meaningful interactions. Overall, teachers really shape the lives of these students, especially in their early years.

Teacher Reflexivity

To create a sense of trust and respect in the classroom, we believe that a teacher must be reflexive. Practicing reflexivity addresses the learner’s active participation in the classroom discussion according to their beliefs and values. It allows learners to be a part of the lessons and develop or explore their ideas and thought processes. Teachers must be flexible to their students’ needs and reflective on their own practices and ways they need to grow.

Dewey (1938) defined the reflexive practice as an action that involves ‘active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in light of the grounds that support it and the further consequences to which it leads’ (p. 9). This enhances the opportunities for learners to break down barriers and build relationships with their teacher. It also connects with the Experience-Based Learning (EBL) activities. EBL is not a model with prescribed rules and strategies, but a paradigmatic view of planning, teaching, and learning which: a) involves the learner (intellect, feelings and senses); b) recognizes and uses the learner’s relevant life experiences to make the learning more meaningful, and c) makes use of reflexivity to gain a deeper understanding (Andresen et al. 2000). Similar to a reflexive classroom, Miller, 2015 outlines 8 possible components of a Reflective Classroom which we have listed below:

 8 Components of a Reflective (+ a Reflexive) Classroom
    1.  Mutual Respect
    2. Intentional Use of Space
    3. A culture of Questioning
    4. Thoughtful Silence
    5. Student-to-Student Discussions
    6. Connecting Content to Students’ Lives to History and the World Today
    7. Allowing for a Variety of Ways for Students to Express and Enrich Their opinions
    8. Creating Space for Diverse Viewpoints


Andresen, L., Boud, D., & Cohen, R. (2000). Experience-based learning. Understanding adult education and training [eBook edition].Routledge. https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=NsHyDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT183&dq=experience+based+learning&ots=ZgKvuYe0KD&sig=DZlGB1YFHz5BUCDHB5cKFzCyai0&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=experience%20based%20learning&f=false

Burnam, M. A., Berry, S. H., Cerully, J. L., & Eberhart, N. K. (Eds.). (2014). Student Mental Health. In Evaluation of the California mental health services authority’s prevention and early intervention initiatives: Progress and preliminary findings, 87–138. RAND Corporation. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt14bs358.13

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2021, July 19). Fast facts about mental health and mental illness. https://cmha.ca/brochure/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. Collier Books. https://openlibrary.org/books/OL6367993M/Experience_and_education

Dewey, J. (1997). How we think [eBook edition]. Courier Corporation. https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=zcvgXWIpaiMC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=dewey+how+we+think&ots=_j-tWjgnyW&sig=GA1WIqANcc4UeitRwM7uQ0An4p0&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=dewey%20how%20we%20think&f=false

McLeod, S. (2020, December 29). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Simple Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

Miller, D. (2015, August 5). 8 components of a reflective classroom. Facing Today, Facing History and Ourselves. https://facingtoday.facinghistory.org/8-components-of-a-reflective-classroom

Murdoch, D., English, A. R., Hintz, A., & Tyson, K. (2020). Feeling heard: Inclusive education, transformative learning, and productive struggle. Educational Theory, 70(5), 653–679. https://doi.org/10.1111/edth.12449

Noddings, N. (2012). The caring relation in teaching. Oxford Review of Education, 38(6), 771–781. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42001791

Noddings, N. (2015). The challenge to care in schools (2nd ed.) [eBook edition]. Teachers College Press. https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=LaRDAwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT9&dq=the+challenge+to+caring+in+schools&ots=hI-5pmiifS&sig=ExeVClDoUFoP_8lHM3RifRF_Hwg&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=the%20challenge%20to%20caring%20in%20schools&f=false

Pérez-Salas, Parra, V., Sáez-Delgado, F., & Olivares, H. (2021). Influence of teacher-student relationships and special educational needs on student engagement and disengagement: A correlational study. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 708157–708157. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.708157

Roeser, R. W., & Midgley, C. (1997). Teachers’ views of issues involving students’ mental health. The Elementary School Journal, 98(2), 115–133. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1002138

Rossen, E., & Cowan, K. C. (2014). Improving mental health in schools. The Phi Delta Kappan, 96(4), 8–13. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24376532

Social-emotional learning (SEL) skills. (2019, August 21). Ontario. Retrieved February 24, 2022, from https://www.ontario.ca/document/health-and-physical-education-grades-1-8/social-emotional-learning-sel-skills#section-1


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Classroom Practice in 2022 Copyright © 2022 by Dr. Catherine Vanner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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