Strong student–teacher relationships foster students’ social, emotional, and academic development, particularly for students from marginalized racial/ethnic groups. The current study gathered input from teachers, school and district administrators, and education researchers (N = 22) regarding strategies that can help teachers build relationships with high school students and to build such relationships in an equitable manner. Participants completed quantitative ratings, open-ended survey questions, and then participated in a series of focus groups. Descriptive analyses of quantitative ratings and content analysis of qualitative data examined teachers’ perceptions of the value of relationships generally and equity in relationships in particular. Analyses also examined barriers to relationship building and potential strategies to address barriers. Results suggest that teachers see relationships with students as important, but they vary in the amount of time and effort they invest in relationships. Teachers may not have the requisite training or skills, particularly when dealing with students with behavioral difficulties and/or individualized needs. Some teachers have professional identities that center around their content area and may not conceptualize building relationships with students as part of their role. Finally, structural features of secondary schools and a lack of leadership support were seen as barriers to relationship building. Participants had a number of concrete suggestions for successful school-wide efforts to enhance student–teacher relationships. With regard to equity, participants did not perceive that teachers take an equity lens to relationship building. Attitudinal, systemic, and skills-related barriers to relationships with racial/ethnic minority students were named, and strategies suggested included elevating student voice. The paper concludes with a discussion of implications for future research and practice.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding was provided by Institute of Education Sciences (Grant Nos. R305A170458, R305B170021).
- Educational equity
- Secondary school
- Student–teacher relationships