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Positive School Relationships Essential

The process of teaching and learning is fundamentally relational. The patterns of norms, goals, values, and interactions that shape relationships in schools provide an essential area of school climate. One of the most important aspects of relationships in schools is how connected people feel to one another. From a psychological point of view, relationships refer not only to relations with others but relations with ourselves—how we feel about and take care of ourselves. Safe, caring, participatory, and responsive school climates tend to foster a greater attachment to school and provide the optimal foundation for social, emotional, and academic learning for middle school and high school students (Blum, McNeely, & Rinehart, 2002; Goodenow & Grady, 1993; V. E. Lee, Smith, Perry, & Smylie, 1999; Osterman, 2000; Wentzel, 1997).

Scholarly articles show that in schools where students perceive a better-structured school, fair discipline practices, and more positive student-teacher relationships, the “probability and frequency of subsequent behavioral problems” is lower (Gregory & Cornell, 2009; Power et al., 1989; M. C. Wang, Selman, Dishion, & Stormshak, 2010). Furthermore, it was found for American students that when students perceived teacher-student support and student-student support, these perceptions were positively associated with self-esteem and grade point average and negatively associated with depressive symptoms (Jia et al., 2009).

Scholars have also shown that teachers’ work environment, peer relationships, and feelings of inclusion and respect are important aspects of positive school climate. In a study of 12 middle schools, Guo (2012) found that the teachers’ work environment, which may be considered an indicator of teachers’ relationships with each other and school administrators, fully mediated the path from a whole school character intervention to school climate change. This indicates the critical foundational role of positive adult relationships for a positive school climate. In the same schools, Higgins-D’Alessandro and Sakwarawich (2011) demonstrated that students with special needs, those who had Individual Education Plans (IEPs), were only able to benefit from the positive school climate if they felt included and respected by other students, indicating the critical role of peer relationships in the well-being of students with differences.

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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