Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and RELATIONSHIPS!

In the hustle and bustle of busy school days it’s easy to lose focus on what decades of research reveals is a critical component of the recipe for a child’s success in school—a strong teacher-child relationship.  A student who is connected to a teacher who is supportive, accepting, and sensitive gets more out of school each day. In fact, research shows that a child’s relationship with their kindergarten teacher can have a lasting impact on their school success many years later, particularly for children who may struggle academically and/or socially. In this article, written by Tes, Bridget Hamre, an Associate Professor at UVA, talks about the importance of teacher-child relationships.

teacher and child working together
Source: istock/dolgachov

As you know, a strong teacher-student relationship doesn’t happen overnight.  It is built over time through multiple, moment to moment interactions.  Some children naturally form positive relationships with their teachers. Think about the students in your classroom: which students take initiative in starting conversations with you, ask you for help, tell you about their lives?

boy looking confused
Source: iStock/michaeljung

Some children, however, need extra support to connect. Think again about your students: which students become frustrated in the classroom but don’t seek your support, which students do you have to frequently redirect or give constructive feedback to, which student’s drain your energy during the day? These are the students who most need to be strongly connected to their teachers and who are most likely not to have the strong connection they need.

What can you do to help a student connect to you?  One effective strategy is Banking Time. Banking Time is a simple intervention where you spend short regular intervals (10 minutes, 2-3 times a week for 6 weeks) interacting with a student so that you and the child can learn about each other outside of the busy demands of the school day. Research has shown that spending this time with children who struggle to regulate their behavior (i.e., students who are very active and impulsive, become frustrated easily, and are sometimes argumentative) improved their behavior as reported by teachers and parents, and improved the stress students experienced as part of the school day (as measured by the hormone cortisol).

teacher and child playing together
Source: iStock/kate_sept2004

In Banking Time, teachers let the student lead the interactions and use specific techniques such as observing and commenting on the student’s behaviors and feelings. You can learn more about Banking Time in this short summary document and if you think this might be something you want to try, you can download the Banking Time Manual.

When teachers are responsive and sensitive to a child’s needs, it sends the message that their teacher values and respects them, they are safe with their teacher, and they can rely on their teacher when they need help.


More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email vkrp@virginia.edu, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext.