Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Opinion Blog

Ask a Psychologist

Helping Students Thrive Now

Angela Duckworth and other behavioral-science experts offer advice to teachers based on scientific research. To submit questions, use this form or #helpstudentsthrive.

Education Opinion

How to Reinforce the Teacher-Student Relationship, Even When You’re Apart

By Angela Duckworth — May 08, 2020 1 min read

How can we capitalize on the relationships that we built with students when we were in school to encourage them to engage deeply with their distance learning?

One of my favorite TED Talks ever is by Rita Pierson, a lifelong educator who summed up a lot of teaching wisdom in one sentence: Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.

Rita’s point was not that we should put on a show for our students or praise them to the heavens or pretend we’re hipper than we are.

Rita’s point was, simply, that teaching and learning are all about relationships. Students learn best from teachers who care about them.

For years, I’ve been talking to expert educators who say exactly the same thing. And there is solid scientific research that, in fact, stronger student-teacher relationships predict both higher academic achievement and fewer disciplinary problems.

Now that you can’t high-five students as they walk into your classroom or catch them after class to ask how they’ve been doing, how do you send the message that you care? How do you tell them that because you care, you want them to engage deeply in learning—even when doing so is for many students dramatically more difficult at home than in the classroom?

I think the most straightforward approach is the best. Tell your students directly what’s on your mind. Be explicit. If you’ve been losing sleep about how little learning you see, tell them so. If video calls with your students are the highlight of your day, share that at the start of your next one. And if you know a certain student can do better, send them an email with suggestions for improvement, adding, “P.S. I’m giving you this feedback because I have high standards and know you can achieve them.”

I’m going to let Rita, who passed away not long after that wise and wonderful TED Talk, have the last word:

Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.

Angela Duckworth, the founder and CEO of the education nonprofit Character Lab, is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. You can follow Character Lab on Twitter @TheCharacterLab.


The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Branding your district matters. This webinar will provide you with practical tips and strategies to elevate your brand from three veteran professionals, each of whom has been directly responsible for building their own district’s brand.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Nearly two-thirds of U.S. school districts are using hybrid learning right now with varying degrees of success. Students and teachers are getting restless and frustrated with online learning, making curriculum engagement difficult and disjointed. While
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
America is more divided than ever—and dangerously so. We need not look any further than the recent attack on the U.S. Capitol while Congress was certifying the results of the presidential election. The denial of

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Clinical Director
Garden Prairie, IL, US
Camelot Education

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read