Building Relationships with Teachers during distance learning

Student Teacher Relationship Building

For the past several months our posts have focused on how to react to the situations we are finding ourselves entrenched in. We write these to express our emotions and try to help create understanding amongst the chaos that currently surrounds us. The insights and strategies have always been grounded in proven educational practices. Many, upon reflection, seem like common sense. How are they not implemented for our learners? Unfortunately, these practices have not always been as popular as they are now. Clearly we still have a lot of work to do.  

This brings us to the topic for this post: relationships.  

We all remember that teacher and what it meant for us on our educational journeys. Who they are and how they interacted with us is what we remember, not necessarily the content of subject matter. The communication between educator and learner and vice versa.

When we establish a safe environment through building relationships, we are more comfortable expressing ourselves, even during frightening times and through trial and error. Think about the role of a summer camp guide. They must get attendees out of their shells before focusing on educational goals. On the topic of summer camps, why do they work? In most formal education spaces there are tests or rigid forms of assessment which more often turn students off from being curious or exploring for fear of failing. When activities and mapped, bite-sized, relevant to interests, they are naturally more engaging and the learning sticks (though is often not attributed to whatever experience is the game-changer at the time).  

When authentic relationships are formed, we can better know and name the learning moments that happen throughout the course of a minute / hour / day / week / semester / way-too-long-pandemic / year. When we know and name these moments, we can react accordingly and invite continued curiosity and creativity regardless of location.  

Because I work in technology, I’m naturally eager to see what role can play, especially around big data visualization. However, despite the hope and promise of technology, we are all humans, we are all in this together, and we need to learn to be open in creating new, healthy, sustained relationships in which learning is at the heart of it all.

TLDR; We already emphasize relationships; this is a huge part of our social cohesion and our everyday lives. We often position relationship building as social capital. How might we reorient this as the basis of teaching and learning? What does that look like for in and out of school environments?


John Balash was instrumental in Digital Dragon’s launch in 2013 as its first Curriculum Director and is now back in the fold as a consultant on all the latest and greatest in tech education.This is John’s latest contribution to a monthly blog series we’ve launched, Tech News from the Frontier. John is the Director of Educational Engagement at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center. John has worked on educationally focused initiatives with clients ranging from D.A.R.P.A. to Disney. Working from both sides of the desk, you can find John in classrooms and conferences around the world exploring new uses for technologies in learning environments.