27 September 2023

Build relationships with students based on trust and mutual respect

Suggestion for implementing the strategy ‘Foster positive relationships and partnerships’

Build students up

Build students up

Hamish describes the positive impact of a teacher knowing him well.

He also describes the negative impact of a different teacher’s behaviour.

Ensure every student is known

Ensure every student is known

Reflect on what you know about the students you teach.

If there are gaps in your knowledge, make a plan to fill them.

Use this list as a prompt.

For Māori students, learn about their tribal structures and cultural practice:

  • whakapapa (genealogy)
  • who they consider to be whānau
  • tikanga – cultural values and practices they use (language, customs, traditions)
  • about their marae.


People in the student’s life:

  • important people in the student’s life
  • who lives at home
  • the best methods and times to communicate with parents and whānau
  • education or medical professionals that provide support
  • who can give support for learning at home.


Practical elements:

  • language/s spoken at home
  • medications and allergies
  • access to wifi and technology at home
  • part-time jobs and responsibilities at home.


Personal preferences:

  • their likes, their interests, what they’re good at, and what they need help with
  • their dislikes, what can upset them and how they express this, and their calming skills
  • their favourite hobbies, books, songs, sports and TV programmes.


Hopes and aspirations:

  • short and long term goals
  • ideas for work
  • future dreams.

Use student information intentionally

Use student information intentionally

Consider how well you know and understand your students: their whakapapa, interests, passions, strengths, sensitivities, and differences.

Reflect on how you use that information to:

  • congratulate a student on an achievement outside school
  • make personal connections to a student’s whakapapa
  • create opportunities for students to share and develop gifts and talents that could remain hidden in school
  • share a kind word when a student is feeling low
  • eliminate or minimise situations that may cause unnecessary stress
  • identify the student’s personal signs of stress or unhappiness and intervene early
  • have a timely conversation with a student about what you have noticed and how to develop coping strategies
  • more accurately interpret wider classroom/playground behaviour and pre-empt potential areas of conflict.

Source: Guidelines for registered schools in New Zealand on the use of physical restraint (opens in a new tab/window)

Reflection questions

Reflection questions

What would students say about the quality of your relationship with them?

Consider these questions from the Wellbeing@School student survey.

Reflect on your responses.

  • Teachers are interested in my culture or family background.
  • Teachers and students care about each other.
  • Teachers are interested in my perspectives and views on the world.
  • Teachers think all students can do well.
  • Teachers treat students fairly.
  • Teachers often praise students for helping each other.
  • Teachers care about how I feel.

Source: Wellbeing@School Student survey: Intermediate & secondary (opens in a new tab/window)

Useful resources

Useful resources

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Positive youth development in Aotearoa. “Weaving connections – Tuhonohono rangatahi”

Read time: 87 min

This Positive Youth Development in Aotearoa (PYDA) framework seeks to explore the confluence between the various approaches to PYD documented in local and international literature, with the grass roots experiences of young people and organisations in Aotearoa / New Zealand.

Publisher: Wayne Francis Charitable Trust

Visit website


Student survey: Intermediate and secondary

Multi-choice wellbeing survey for students years 7–13.

Publisher: Wellbeing @ School

Download PDF


Having a teacher mentor

A past student reflects on a teachers’ ability to get to know them and the difference it makes.

Visit website

Next steps

More suggestions for implementing the strategy “Foster positive relationships and partnerships”:

Return to the guide “Behaviour and learning”

Guide to Index of the guide: Behaviour and learning

Strategies for action: