The Educator-to-Educator Relationships Toolkit
The relationships educators form with one another have a critical impact on the relational climate of the whole school. Explore the following evidence-based framework and resources to strengthen educator-to-educator relationships and help your students thrive.
Educator-to-educator (E2E) relationships are complex, situational, and unique. Research shows that E2E relationships can significantly impact educators’ and students’ morale, mental health, and well-being. Further, in a study of 336 public schools in Miami-Dade County, researchers found that the quality of educator collaboration was related to student achievement and educator improvement.¹ A study on teacher collaboration² suggests that educator relationships have a powerful impact on the whole school:
“The results showed that teacher collaboration pays off on students, teachers, as well as the whole school level...When teachers collaborate, the educational performances of students progress. Schools undergo cultural changes, are more innovative, and become characterized by a flattened power structure. But in the end, it showed that the teachers appear to profit most...”
At the same time, K-12 teachers are currently the most burnt-out professionals in the U.S. according to a recent Gallup poll.³ There are 500,000+ fewer educators in the American public school systems post-pandemic, and 75% of all school staff reported being stressed.
The E2E Relationships Toolkit is designed to respond to this growing need for support. It offers tools, resources, and frameworks that can help schools cultivate relationship-rich spaces among educators, yielding fruits for both educators and students alike. This Framework can be adapted to meet individual school circumstances and educator needs.
"We are the heartbeat of the school; there's no school without teachers."
The Educator-to-Educator Relationships Framework
Roots: Educator-to-educator relationships
The critical elements of strong and healthy educator-to-educator relationships. The three critical elements that foster positive E2E relationships are actions, beliefs, and connections. Like roots, these relationships provide connection, stability, encouragement, guidance, and opportunities for everyone to thrive. Learn more.
Soil: School Culture and Climate
The relational climate providing nutrients to educator-to-educator relationships. Like soil, when schools cultivate an intentional, inclusive, and equitable culture, E2E relationships can truly grow. Two critical elements of a healthy school culture are shared vision and social opportunities. Learn more.
Bedrock: Supporting Structures
The supporting structures of educator-to-educator relationships. Policies, leadership style, allocation of resources, and time and space are the bedrock for E2E relationships. These supporting structures should be aligned and free of policies that create mistrust so educators have the stability they need to thrive. Learn more.
Environment: System-wide Factors
The system-wide factors affecting educator-to-educator relationships. The larger environment of societal norms, policies, media, and other factors can greatly impact educator relationships. This includes factors such as high turnover, lack of diversity, and an under-appreciation of the teaching profession. Learn more.
While building the Framework, we worked closely with educators in the field. Recognizing that all educator relationships are complex and unique, we identified five key principles to help make our Framework adaptable in a variety of contexts. The Framework must be:
- Actionable. Actionable recommendations in the form of measures, activities, and other concrete resources.
- Adaptable. Nuances for local adaptation, acknowledging that themes must be contextualized to resonate.
- Educator-oriented. Built for educators so all the languages are from educators’ perspective.
- Equity-focused. Elevate the voices of marginalized educators, their strengths, and the barriers they disproportionately face.
- Empirical. True to educators’ lived experiences and relational contexts while leaning into relevant research and scholarship.
Strong relationships among educators have a direct impact on educator well-being, mental health, job satisfaction, and burnout. Roland S. Barth, a renowned educator, school principal, and author of the book Improving Schools from Within – states:
“One incontrovertible finding emerges from my career spent working in and around schools: The nature of relationships among the adults within a school has a greater influence on the character and quality of that school and on student accomplishment than anything else."³
It’s no surprise that E2E relationships trickle down to influence student outcomes. Healthy peer-to-peer relationships can directly impact the overall climate of the school. Good E2E interaction can model healthy relationships and communication for students.
Let’s explore this impact further. Strong E2E relationships can lead to the following educator and student outcomes:
E2E relationships are critical to educator well-being.⁴
E2E relationships are synergistically related to educators’ mental wellness.⁵ For example, educators have shared how having a boundary honored (e.g., mentally and physically separating work from home life) could help with their mental health.
E2E relationships are critical for educator self-efficacy and job satisfaction.⁶
Support Against Burnout
E2E relationships can buffer dissatisfaction and burnout that ultimately can have real implications for educator retention and turnover,⁷ especially for educators of color who leave the profession at higher rates than their White colleagues.⁹
Being Role Models
Healthy educator-to-educator relationships serve as role models for healthy peer relationships among students.
On the flip side, when educator-to-educator relationships are weak or strained, the effects can spill over to students. Students can be sensitive to disagreements between educators and may try to resolve tension by approaching educators and directly inquiring about the perceived rifts. When students are aware of conflict on the educator-level, it can serve as a distraction from class time at best, and may serve to further the divide at worst.
Relatedly, educator-to-educator relationships that are rooted in toxic or problematic beliefs can reinforce negative, stereotypical perceptions about students.
Cultivate Relational Climate
Importantly, E2E are synergistically related to the overall school climate.¹⁰ Healthy educator-to-educator relationships feed into a healthy school climate, and vice versa. Toxic or even discriminatory educator-to-educator relationships lead to antagonistic work culture that creates feelings of invisibility and being unwelcome.¹¹
- VanGrieken et al., 2015
- Ronfeldt et al., 205
- Barth, 2003
- Kern et al., 2014; Seligman, 2018; Santoro & Price, 2021
- Noonoo, 2022
- Aldridge & Fraser, 2016, p. 302; Canrinus et al., 2012; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2011
- Bristol, 2020; Chang, 2009; Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2017; Markow & Martin, 2005; Rubinstein & McCarthy, 2012; Taris et al., 2004
- Hansen & Quintero, 2019
- Achinstein et al., 2010; Santoro et al., 2021
- Cohen et al., 2009; Dutton & Heaphy, 2003; Hoy & Tarter, 2011; Moolenaar et al., 2014
- Dixon et al., 2019