Leadership magazine March/April 2018 V47 No. 4 | Page 30

All because of my teacher A PRACTICAL APPROACH TO DEVELOPING POSITIVE STUDENT-TEACHER RELATIONSHIPS The power of the student- teacher relationship can be found in the stories of at-risk students for whom teachers became mentors and role models, building powerful relationships that positively influenced their success and futures. 30 Leadership Many students, despite abysmal circumstances, are thriving due to the resil- ience-building power of teachers. Imagine the student from a broken, abusive home, living in poverty and struggling to master English. Research indicates that students suffering multiple adverse conditions are likely to fail and drop out of school (Bowers, Sprott and Taft, 2013; Wang and Fredricks, 2014). However, in my study of at-risk stu- dents succeeding in school, the teacher was a primary contributor to their success. Emmy E. Werner (1996) and Nan Hen- derson (2013) identify schools as a viable haven to establish conditions that promote resilience and growth mindsets among students vulnerable to failure. As such, the student-teacher relationship becomes para- mount to the process of student achieve- ment. Schools provide the most influential relationships that many at-risk students come to know in their lives. Teachers be- come mentors and role models through the powerful relationships they build with stu- dents (Theron and Engelbrecht, 2012). Teachers who have the ability to trans- form lives are the most positive inf luence in a child’s life outside of the family circle (Werner and Smith, 1989; Voke, 2003). Student achievement research shows that what teachers do matters – and for some stu- dents, teachers can tip the scale away from academic failure and move students toward scholastic success (Hattie, 2012). A school setting provides structure, boundaries and openness to explore the many opportunities that are available to stu- dents, and the student-teacher relationship is the catalyst in the school setting (Birdsall, 2013). Teachers gain opportunities to share a multitude of examples about overcoming adversity through literature, history and the arts. A student’s exposure to and retention of the cultural, social and emotional capital that a teacher provides can greatly enhance the development of resilience. Through my extensive interview pro- cess with at-risk students, the power of the student-teacher relationship was revealed. The students who were interviewed faced multiple risk factors in their lives; however, all were succeeding in school. Each of the students had graduated in the top 10 percent of their class, while concurrently being en- rolled in community college classes. By the time they graduated high school, they had earned nearly a full year of college credit. I have learned over my years in education that student voices expose the realities em- bedded deep within education. When we as By Trenton Hansen