1.4 Building relationships

On this page

  1. Importance of building relations
    1.1 Building relations
    1.2 Not building relations
    1.3 Starting to build relations
  2. Personal stories – Johari window
  3. Aspects of building relations
    3.1 Asking questions
    3.2 Developing identity
    3.3 Developing in subject area
  4. Group formation
  5. Summary
  6. Video

Teachers and students build relations and thus strengthen their bond. Building relations is reflected in the approach to teaching of each lesson. Building relations creates a close group and allows everyone to concentrate.

I give my students the opportunity to get to know each other in different roles. When we know each other well, everyone dares to be vulnerable.

Kohlberg’s most influential outcome [of his research] was that the children with the greatest moral awareness (according to his scoring method) were those who were given regular opportunities for role reversal – to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and to look at a problem from someone else’s perspective.” Haidt (2012)

Current approach

How do I pay attention to building relationships?

Future approach:

How do I pay attention to building relationships in the future?

Introduction video

Examples in building relations

  1. Occasionally ask a student how things are going.
  2. Have students interview each other and then ask the interviewer report back the other person’s story.
  3. Tell your students that you use Friendly and Fair Teaching (FFT) and that you resolve to be friendly and fair. Indicate that you hope your students will also be friendly and fair. Tell them that if they are not, you will address them and that they may also address you on friendliness and fairness (equality).
  4. Strengthen the bond between students by using forms of work in which they:
    – get to know each other better,
    – can learn from each other,
    – use gestures to give instructions.
  5. Notice during group assignments that working together is more effective than working alone. Raise this explicitly when discussing the lesson as well.
  6. Have a student explain something to the class.
  7. Devise a collaborative assignment and create random groups.

Examples building relations primary education

  • Especially in Primary Education, a good relationship is very important. When the relationship between teacher and students is good, more can be achieved. You spend a lot of time together and you have to work together again almost immediately after a conflict. Therefore, it is necessary to resolve a conflict quickly.
  • Have a student prepare and lead an activity.
  • When introducing a new theme/task, have your students guess the theme by asking questions. A game rule here is that they can only ask yes/no questions.
  • Speed dating/inside-outside circle. For example, have students bring and object from home that fits the lesson/theme. Create two rows facing each other and give each student two minutes to tell his/her opposite neighbour about the object. Have all students move up one place. Repeat the task several times.
  • Students walk quietly through the classroom. At a sign from the teacher, they form pairs and discuss the assignment.
  • Create an assignment where students work independently and give each student three cards with a question mark. Instruction for students: When you have a question, think about who among your peers can help you. With a question mark, you go to your chosen classmate and then ask him/her a question about your problem.

Examples building relations Secondary Education

  • Building relationships and creating a good bond between students is usually the task of the form tutor. As a subject teacher, you can contribute to building relationships in your lessons.
  • An example of an introduction exercise. Everyone has different sides. In groups of 3 or 4 people you take turns to describe five different sides of yourself. Listen carefully to each other and let each other finish speaking.
    – little finger – What are you small at?
    – ring finger – What are you loyal to?
    – middle finger – What do you dislike?
    – index finger – Where do you want to go?
    – thumb – What are you good at?
    N.B. Especially for students who present themselves tough, the first question is an eye opener. The somewhat less confident students benefit from the “thumb” question.


‘Building relations’ is one of the four modules of the perspective ‘Establishing a friendly tone’ of FFT.

Figure 7: Establishing a friendly tone (Overview)

With this module ‘Building relationships’ you strengthen the bond between you and the students and between the students themselves.In doing so, you create a positive learning environment.

Building relationships in a good way creates mutual trust and allows everyone to work with concentration. By building relationships you ensure connection and encourage cooperation. Building relations does not only take place during class. We also build relations during informal moments.

1. Importance of getting acquainted

1.1 Building relations

Building relationships creates connection and trust and increases the willingness to be considerate of one another. This creates an positive learning environment and everyone gets to work undisturbed. Students often have a lot of problems. If you have an eye for that, if you make time for that at the moment the student needs it, then you are connecting.

1.2 Not building relationships

If you immediately start teaching and limit yourself to that, you miss the trust of your students and there is no trust between the students themselves. Unnoticed things will go wrong.

1.3 Starting to build relationships

At any time you can start building relationships. In your lesson preparation, make building relationships a component of every approach to teaching.

2. Personal stories – Johari window

Tell something personal about yourself, students are curious about this and give students the opportunity to tell something about themselves (equality). This will enlarge the upper left quadrant of this image.

Figure 26: Johari window

The more unfamiliarity disappears, the more everyone dares to be vulnerable.

Personal storytelling is at the heart of FFT and has been the focus of the Rapucation Foundation for quite some time. At several schools, our Foundation organized ‘First ID projects’ in which students and teachers wrote personal stories and shared them with each other with the goal of creating a positive learning environment.

Check out the example of Johan ‘t Hart who shared his story for a First ID at his school, the Pieter Nieuwland College.

3. Aspects of building relationships

3.1 Getting acquainted by asking questions

  • Ask students what they already know about your subject area. By doing so, you engage students’ prior knowledge in your lessons. In doing so, you strengthen the students’ ownership of their own learning.
  • Ask students to share their knowledge in your field.
  • Ask students to help each other (Collaboration).
  • Question when closing a topic: What did you miss in teaching? What did you actually want to learn? You incorporate students’ suggestions into your new approach. This way you avoid repeating mistakes in your teaching.

3.2 Developing identity

Pay attention to the origin of your students. In your lessons you can pay attention to different countries and cultures. You can also ask students about personal experiences. In this way you give students the opportunity to make contact with their own origins, their own identity. Involve role models from different cultures in your lessons. Knowledge of one’s own culture is a prerequisite for developing an identity. Mutual understanding and a good relationship are created by learning about each other’s culture.

3.3 Professional development

Regularly ask your students about new experiences in your subject specialism. You will then get an impression of who is continuing with your subject independently at home and you can respond to that. In this way, your students take advantage of opportunities to develop both at school and at home. School is a place for students to ask questions. At home, they continue to work independently.

Non scola sed vita discimus  (We learn not for school, but for life).
In this way, each student emerges as a unique person.” (Gert Biesta).

4. Group formation

Read more about this under ‘Collaboration‘.

5. Summary

Paying attention to building relations creates a close, social group that can cooperate well. Getting to know each other creates connection and trust. Give your students opportunities to get to know each other, to get to know you, the learning objective and the world. By having students switch roles, by having them help each other and by creating different group divisions, you allow your students to get to know each other in different ways.

  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Find out about one’s situation and wishes. Show that you recognize the situation and provide solutions only when asked.
  • Listening – Summarize – Questioning. You can use this in an exercise where students get to know each other.
  • If a relationship with a student is disturbed, as a teacher you take the initiative to improve this relationship. To do this, take the student in question aside and ask him or her why he or she cannot concentrate well. Involve this student in finding a solution. As a result of this conversation you make, if necessary, agreements with this student (that can be different from general agreements) about how both of you interact in the future or about the place of the student in the group.
  • Invent quiet exercises in which attention for each other is central. This prevents bullying. In a busy and messy environment the students also get acquainted with less pleasant aspects of each other.

6. Video

In this video a student takes the lead as a conductor, he gets to know his class as an orchestra. Conversely, the class gets to know him as a conductor. This creates new opportunities for students to get to know each other. These can contribute to the autonomy of the group. In this situation, the teacher has a coaching role.