Creating an "Ecological Fit" through Supportive Teacher-Student Relationships
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This qualitative study was based on the challenges of today's urban schools and highlights the work of teachers in these schools who have achieved increased successes in student achievement. Demographic changes in today's urban schools have fueled an increased gap in the backgrounds of the students and their teachers. Many teachers also lack an awareness of the importance of supportive teacher-student relationships. The purpose of this study was to document and describe the positive connections teachers make with students and to explain the nature of supportive teacher-student relationships. It is those positive connections and supportive relationships that form the basis for creating "ecologically fit" classrooms for all students. Through this study, teachers' understandings and actions for sustaining and developing supportive teacher-student relationships were explicated. The study took place in an urban elementary school and involved three teachers and the students and parents from each of the teachers' classes. All participants in the study were interviewed and observed on numerous occasions to obtain first-hand knowledge of their views and perceptions about supportive teacher-student relationships. The study's findings clearly showed that culturally responsive teaching is essential in creating and maintaining supportive teacher-student relationships. Supportive teaching requires teachers to develop their own self-awareness and to understand where they are in their relationships with their students. In doing so, teachers are better equipped to create caring and supportive classroom environments that help meet the needs of diverse student populations. In conclusion, the researcher found that culturally responsive teaching and supportive teacher-student relationships directly attributed to the increased academic achievements of students instructed by the teachers who participated in this study. Furthermore, the researcher inferred that when teachers utilize culturally responsive teaching methods and create supportive teacher-student relationships in their classrooms, they ultimately provide the best overall education for all students.