Relationship Building

See connections in all things because all things are related.

Alaska Native Values

What is this section about?

Relationship building is at the foundation of any trauma-engaged approach. Strategies that strengthen supportive relationships help students, staff, and communities make positive, caring connections between each other and within the school environment. Students who feel safe, secure, and connected achieve greater success. Transformative schools help foster relationships at all levels between adults and students, among students, and among adults in schools, within families, and within communities. This section includes information on building capacity in school districts to foster supportive relationships between all members of the school community (staff, students, and families).

Community Adaptations

The content of this chapter is offered to district leaders, school staff, afterschool providers, and community members with the intention of supporting a whole school, whole community approach. The toolkit is offered with the understanding it may need to be adapted to make the practices culturally relevant and to align to each community’s strengths, norms, and expectations.

What Can Leadership Do?

Click each section below for more info.

A. Build your own social-emotional skills to establish trusting relationships with students, colleagues, and families (through professional development, reflective practice, etc).
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People
    A short video based on a book that has survived the test of time, this video addresses ways to build trust and relationships. Based on the teachings of Dale Carnegie and his bestselling book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.
B. Review and analyze district and school data with staff to better understand student and staff perceptions about relationships at school. ex: Climate and Connectedness Survey, Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Ensure the data is uncomplicated, understandable and accessible to all staff.
C. Use data to identify specific goals for establishing, maintaining, restoring, and strengthening relationships that support a positive school climate.
  • The Center for Courage and Renewal
    A resource on building adult communities in schools and cultivating trust. This program helps principals and staff members create a safe space to do the necessary inner work for building trust and community.
  • Resources for Learning Style Tests
    Shares a number of learning style inventories appropriate for ages preschool through adult – it is also included in the professional learning portion of this chapter’s toolkit.
D. Create and maintain a positive, professional climate that supports staff values, interactions, and collaborations by establishing working agreements that are clear and concise.
  • The Power of Team Norms
    A short article from Educational Leadership supporting the importance of developing group norms.
  • Working Agreements Defined
    Three methods for developing working agreements to support effective interactions between group members.

Protocols for developing group norms:

E. Provide time for reflective practice and professional learning opportunities that help build individual capacity for strengthening supportive relationships among students, staff, and families.
  • Every Opportunity
    This high-impact video demonstrates the importance and power of building relationships and how all staff impact school climate.
  • Establish, Maintain, Restore Activities
    Relationships are at the heart of what youth need to learn, grow, and thrive. This collection of resources includes research, a PowerPoint presentation, and activities for staff to explore ways to establish, maintain and restore relationships with students.
    Source: Sitka School District with permission from Diana Browning Wright.

What Can Staff Do?

Click each section below for more info.

A. Build personal social-emotional skills to create positive relationships with students, colleagues, and families that includes the understanding and use of healthy boundaries.
  • Building Great Work Relationships
    A short article from MindTools on developing strong relationship skills. This resource includes a paragraph on working with “difficult people.”
  • Alaska Native Knowledge Network
    Sharing understandings and resources from Alaska communities, the Alaska Native Knowledge Network has a variety of resources for free and for purchase.
B. Use proactive communication skills that help to cultivate relationships and support a positive school climate. This includes active listening and ensuring every voice is heard.
C. Maintain relationships by using consistent practices to sustain connections over time. Create opportunities to check in with students, colleagues, and families.
  • Student-Student Classroom Interaction
    A website that shares tips for improving student interaction, explores how student-to-student interaction impacts learning, and looks at ways to structure classrooms to support positive student-to-student interaction.
D. Restore damaged relationships through learning about and actively utilizing restorative techniques.
  • How to Succeed with People
    A short video by Paul McGee with powerful questions that give insight into how to mend relationships when there is conflict.
E. Reflect on how personal experience and bias impacts relationships and student success.
  • Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning
    Implicit bias refers to unconscious attitudes, reactions, and stereotypes that affect behavior and understanding. Instructors can consider a variety of strategies and benefits for revealing and addressing implicit bias, both in themselves and their students.
  • Five Keys to Challenging Implicit Bias
    Challenge implicit biases by identifying your own, teaching colleagues about them, observing gap-closing teachers, stopping “tone policing,” and tuning into such biases at your school.

Additional Resources

Click each section below for more info.

Adult to Student
Student to Student
  • Student-Student Classroom Interaction
    A website that shares tips and examples for improving student interaction. It also explores student-to-student interaction and how it affects learning, as well as ways to structure classrooms to support positive student interaction.
Adult to Adult
  • How to Succeed with People
    A short video by Paul McGee with powerful questions that give insight into how to mend relationships when there is conflict.

Family to School
  • Fostering School, Family and Community Involvement
    Provides schools with the foundation needed to create and maintain safe schools. Includes basics for school-family-community relationships, collaborations in practice, and policy use for effective change.
  • Building Relationships in School
    With information that speaks to the connection between relationships and the success of a school, this article gives an overview of topics related to building relationships with all stakeholders including families and schools. From the Institute of Arts Integration and STEAM.

More Resources

  • “Paper Tigers” video
    The principal of Lincoln High School changes his school’s approach to discipline to help students overcome traumatic events.
  • “Connected and Respected”
    This elementary curriculum is based on the nationally recognized Resolving Conflict Creatively program on conflict resolution and social and emotional learning.
  • Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
    The broad purpose of PBIS is to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of schools and other educational institutions. PBIS seeks to improve social, emotional, and academic outcomes for all students, including students with disabilities and students from underrepresented groups.