While it is said that building positive relationships between students and
teachers promotes both student emotional wellbeing and learning, the literature
currently provides few clues on how to go about building such relations (and the priorities for action) which are grounded in the research. Interviews and a focus group were used to explore the perspectives of experienced teachers in
promoting wellbeing among students facing adversity (i.e. prolonged difficulties and misfortune, such as poverty and issues associated with being a refugee).
The results showed that teachers who nurtured relationships with students
facing adversity meet considerable challenges. Priority challenges included
grappling with unfamiliar student values; facing their own and other staff
judgements; boundary issues; schools becoming refuges in communities under
strain; and trying to still care when workplace changes appeared to work against positive teacher–student (TS) relationships. The paper concludes that such
relationships are a site of tension, contradiction and intensity. Nevertheless, for these teachers, the specific challenges in relationships laid the foundations for meaningful student learning and mental health promotion.