Parent-Teacher Cooperation

4 Secrets to More Positive Teacher-Student Relationships

Students with ADHD shine brightest when teachers illuminate their strengths. Here’s how to make that happen (it doesn’t involve apples).

Students with ADHD are vibrant, creative, and often in trouble with the teacher. Executive function challenges may prevent them from meeting expectations, and weak impulse control can cause behavior problems in the classroom. This is precisely why kids with ADHD should focus on building strong teacher-student relationships from day one — so that educators understand that intentions don’t always match results, that progress trumps perfection, and that praise inspires greater effort.

Forget the old adage about giving your teacher an apple. We have better strategies to win over teachers — and they don’t involve fruit.

#1 Find Common Ground

Play detective and look around the teacher’s room for clues about his interests, then use those as conversation starters. For instance, is there a “Stranger Things” toy figure on a bookshelf? Ask him about it. Who is his favorite character in the show?

Similarly, a poster of a sports team on a wall or a piece of clothing with a team’s logo can invite questions or conversation about the latest game or upcoming season. Do pictures of family members adorn the teacher’s desk? Ask about them, or about the activities depicted in the photos. Efforts to connect with your teacher on a more personal level will help you get to know each other better, and greatly improve your relationship with him regardless of test scores.

#2 Ask for Help

Resist the urge to talk in class. Do your homework. Pay attention to the areas in which you struggle and ask for help when needed. Make sure that you have the proper accommodations detailed in your IEP or 504 Plan. Showing the teacher that you’re motivated and invested in her class will help you to gain her support. Your teacher wants to help you to succeed, especially if you demonstrate that you’re serious about your work.

[Read: 3 Back-to-School Assignments for Parents]

#3 Be Accountable

When you make a mistake, take responsibility, and do your best to fix it. This will show your teacher that you value your relationship with him. If the mistake calls for an apology, offer one. Then let the teacher know how you plan to fix the problem, such as cleaning up a mess, requesting to have your seat moved away from distracting classmates, or asking to rewrite an essay. Quickly owning your mistakes and seeking to do better will show your teacher that you are respectful and engaged.

#4 Value the Work

Teachers spend a lot of time outside of class working on the lessons they deliver in class. Showing that you are interested in, and learning from, their lessons can go a long way in getting them to like you. That means participating in class and doing your best to be attentive, to turn in your assignments on time, and to attend extra help sessions when needed. Teachers like and respect students who are serious about their work and who make an effort to do well.

For an added bonus, tell your teacher when you’re enjoying her class. Having a good relationship with your teacher will make your time in school easier and more satisfying.

ADHD at School: Next Steps

Brendan Mahan is an ADHD coach at, and host of the ADHD Essentials Podcast.

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