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Teachers have asked us, “Some kids are just so hard to reach – how do I connect with difficult kids?”

Now, the Heath Research Team together with our collaborators share a great resource on how to build relationships with hard to reach children.

Children require warm, supportive relationships for healthy development. The importance of the teacher-student relationship has been well-founded in research. Numerous studies have demonstrated that students who have a positive relationship with their teacher have greater school success and overall adjustment. In particular, positive relationships with teachers may serve as a protective factor for students with special needs, who are at increased risk for losing motivation, engagement, and interest in school. The classroom working alliance is a broadened conceptualization of the teacher-student relationship that considers both the emotional connection and the collaborative partnership between teachers and students. The Lester B. Pearson School Board in collaboration with the Heath Research Team together with many teachers developed the Classroom Working Alliance Manual (CWAM). The CWAM is a manual that provides research-informed guidelines and resources to equip administrators, teachers, and support to foster positive teacher-student relationships at the elementary school level.

We hope that this manual may serve as a useful resource. We encourage you to implement some of the alliance-building strategies with your students and share it with colleagues. Feel free to share this PDF version of the manual with colleagues. The manual is provided in both English and French below.




Elana Bloom, PhD
Psychologist & Coordinator
Centre of Excellence for Mental Health
Lester B. Pearson School Board

Jessica Toste, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Special Education
The University of Texas at Austin

Nancy Heath, PhD
James McGill Professor
Educational & Counselling Psychology
McGill University


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