- Students who spend time getting to know their teachers, counselors, and school staff tend to do better in class.
- Putting in face time with your teachers isn’t just helpful when you have a question about a test; it can also help you build connections that will be useful for references or mentorships down the road.
- Building these relationships early in the year is key.
It’s a new school year, which likely means you’re being bombarded with advice for how to make this year even better than the last. One key to setting yourself up for success? Spending more time with your teachers, coaches, and counselors.
Hear us out. You might think staying late after class or stopping by your math teacher’s classroom at lunch is only important for students who are struggling to pass, but even if you’re doing well or are somewhere in the middle, building relationships with teachers and school staff can be really valuable down the road. Over 80 percent of high school students are already doing this, according to a recent Student Health 101 survey.
Here’s why you should set aside time to meet with a teacher or staff member you admire this year:
It can help you land your dream school, internship, or job
At some point, whether it’s for a dream internship, college application, or summer job, you’ll need references who can speak to your character, your interests, and your hustle. Building a solid relationship with a teacher or coach at school can help ensure you have a stellar letter of recommendation. “My counselor has been able to provide me with many opportunities, such as summer college classes to get ahead, and [has even helped me apply for scholarships],” says Maya, a junior in Dallas, Texas. “At least three of my teachers have written me letters of recommendation when I asked them to. When I apply to universities next year, I know I’ll be able to ask for help from my English teachers in writing my application essays.”
Here’s a little secret: Most teachers want to give you an amazing recommendation. But you have to put in the effort before the final hour. “As a faculty member that has been asked to write recommendations for colleges and scholarships, it’s helpful to me to have known that student for a few years. That way, I can see how they have grown [and] persevered through difficult situations, how they act with their peers, and what type of member of the school community they are,” says Stacy Ciarleglio, head athletic trainer and anatomy teacher at Westminster School in Simsbury, Connecticut. “This helps me to write the best recommendation letter possible.”
It’s a great way to find a mentor
“Many kids find that it’s actually fun to have good relationships with faculty,” Ciarleglio says. And vice versa. “Sometimes it’s nice to share a laugh with a kid or get off campus for a Starbucks run—it becomes more than just a transactional relationship [and] more of a personal relationship in which both faculty and students can enjoy each other’s company.”
It’s those kinds of genuine connections that often produce the best mentors. “The relationships that you have built with school staff members might be your key to great opportunities in the future,” Ciarleglio says.
It can help prevent you from falling behind in class
There’s nothing more annoying for a teacher—or stressful for you—to realize that you need serious help right before a big test. When you already have an established relationship with your teachers, it’s much less intimidating to ask for extra help before you find yourself panicked and cramming. A study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology last year found that positive relationships with teachers directly impact students’ level of engagement in school. “My teacher has been really supportive, even if I feel like I can’t be successful, which helped me strive to be a better student and achieve my goals,” says Juan, a senior in Menifee, California.
It can help you feel more connected
Even as a freshman or sophomore, building a network with school staff members can be super helpful. “I have someone to go and talk to when I have a problem so I don’t keep it bottled up all day,” says Keji, a sophomore in Austin, Texas. You never know when you might need a little extra support. “A lot happens in high school. There is a lot of change and a lot of stress, but also a lot of good times,” says Ciarleglio. “Having a relationship with a trusted adult other than parents can really help a student navigate the ups and downs.”
So, what’s the best way to get to know a teacher better without it feeling awkward? Keep it simple. Instead of just saying “Hi” when you pass them in the halls, make a little more effort and ask them about their day, Ciarleglio says. When a teacher asks how things are going with you after class, elaborate a little more than just saying “good.”
“I think regardless of the school setting (boarding, day, public, or private), making an effort to engage in conversation beyond common courtesies is the best way to build relationships with school staff members,” Ciarleglio says. “Personally, I like when kids come up to me after class to talk or they stop into the athletic training room after their afternoon sports practice.”
Stacy Ciarleglio, LATC, head athletic trainer, Westminster School, Simsbury, Connecticut.
Martin, A. J., & Collie, R. J. (2018). Teacher–student relationships and students’ engagement in high school: Does the number of negative and positive relationships with teachers matter? Journal of Educational Psychology. doi: 10.1037/edu0000317
Student Health 101 survey, June 2019.