4 steps to building respectful relationships between students

Steph, Community Manager

Respectful relationships between students have a dramatic effect on their learning potential.

As teachers, we know the impact interpersonal conflict between students has on classroom focus. 

This article covers some steps teachers can take to foster positive relationships in the classroom and help students feel connected and safe.

1. Model positive relationships

Providing a model for respectful relationships encourages more positive interactions between students. 

Getting to know your students is a good place to start. This helps students feel understood and heard.

The relationship-building questions in Ziplet provide a helpful framework. Some examples include:

  • What's one skill you have that makes you unique?
  • What's your greatest strength?
  • What's your superpower?

Try asking your students these questions in Ziplet and consider sharing the results with the class. Don’t forget to answer the questions yourself and let your students know a bit about you.

2. Encourage reflection and self-awareness

Encouraging students to think about their own emotions and behaviours can promote more considerate behaviour towards others.

Regularly asking your students to reflect on the following question can help promote mindfulness, wellbeing and a more positive school culture.

  • What went well for you today?
  • What kind act will you do for somebody today?
  • What are you most looking forward to tomorrow?
  • How are you feeling ‘right’ now and why?

3. Encourage empathy

When students are able to consider situations from multiple perspectives, they’re more likely to have positive social interactions with their peers. 

From a young age, students should be encouraged to participate in activities that promote social-emotional learning. As a teacher, find ways to help students understand and appreciate their identity, as well as others. To do this requires empathy and kindness, two skills that can be taught.

This set of 36 questions from Berkeley University are designed to increase closeness and empathy. Taking a selection of these questions and asking students to work through them together in groups can help to promote mutual understanding. 

The website also has an empathy quiz and provides suggestions for increasing empathy.

You might also encourage your students to think about these three questions in their interactions with other people:

  1. What is the other person feeling?
  2. Have I ever felt this way?
  3. How would I want to be treated if I felt this way?

4. Give students an opportunity to speak up

It can be hard for students to speak up. They have limited opportunities to speak to teachers away from their peers, and many feel shy about doing so. 

Using a tool like Ziplet gives students an opportunity to make their voice heard away from their peers.

Some useful questions to ask when seeking to understand classroom and school culture include:

  • How supported do you feel by your classmates?
  • Do you feel confident voicing your opinion in this class?
  • How comfortable do you feel speaking in class?

Ziplet gives teachers the option of allowing students to answer anonymously. Teachers can still reply to these anonymous responses. This helps get more honest responses from students, without losing the ability to follow up.


By promoting respectful relationships in the classroom, you can help students feel more comfortable and ready to learn. It can also help prevent disruptive and antisocial behaviour.

Try out a few of the tips above and let us know what works for you.

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