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One Texas teacher gave her first-grade student a kidney
Six-year-old Matthew Parker needed a kidney. His teacher, Lindsey Painter, gave him one. But this shows us something about teacher-student relationships. - photo by Herb Scribner
Six-year-old Matthew Parker needed a new kidney. His elementary school teacher, Lindsey Painter, gave him one.

According to KSAT-12, a local ABC affiliate in New Braunfels, Texas, doctors tested more than 70 people to see if their kidney was a good match for the boy's body. Painter's kidney was the only one that fit the first grader's needs.

Parker, who has needed a kidney transplant since 2010, found one match five years ago, but his body rejected it. Doctors said only one percent of the population have a kidney that could match Parkers body.

"We were shocked when it came back as a match, Painter said to KSAT-12. For me to be the needle-in-the-haystack match that they were looking for, it is hard to deny that it was meant to be.

Painter, who began teaching Parker and his two brothers one year ago, said she hoped Parker would be as physically active as her own children.

"You love them like your own, you celebrate with them when things go well, and youre upset (and) disappointed when things dont, Painter said of her students, according to KSAT.

Not all teachers can or would give a student a kidney, but they have helped children in many other ways. The American Psychological Association released a report that found students who have positive relationships with their teachers attain higher levels of achievement than those students with more conflictual relationships.

The report, which compiled research from a number of studies and research papers, said students who have positive relationships with their teachers adjust better to new schools, learn better social skills and have higher class attendance.

Students reported liking school more and experiencing less loneliness if they had a close relationship with their teachers, the report said. Students with better teacher-student relationships also showed better performance on measures of academic performance and school readiness.

Teachers can build relationships with their students by showing them how much they enjoy their company and care about their personal backgrounds and by seldom showing signs of aggravation, according to the APAs report.

This applies to students coping with traumatic experiences as well. According to The Adverse Childhood Experience Study, adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect or dysfunction in the family are common in America.

Children who have been through these adverse experiences often have trouble with language, reading and emotional development in the classroom, according to Neena McConnico, director of Boston Medical Centers Child Witness to Violence Project, who spoke to The Atlantics Jessica Lahey.

Teachers can help students move past thse problems by building relationships with them, McConnico said. When teachers listen to their students, theyre giving them a chance to speak about the abuse they suffered, which validates their feelings and helps build trust, McConnico told Lahey.

Its really that simple, McConnico said to Lahey. Listen, reflect back to them that they have been heard, validate the childs feelings without judgment, and thank the child for sharing with you.

Students appreciate teachers who establish these personal relationships with them, according to author William Deresiewicz, whose book on education explores the intricacies of student-teacher relationships.

In an excerpt published for Slate, Deresiewicz said students want teachers who will mentor them and share personal life experiences with them because it shows students theyre not alone. Students feel teachers can give them lessons about life that parents cant, which helps them learn new concepts in school they might not normally grasp at home.

You know great teaching the moment you encounter it, Deresiewicz wrote. 'Yes,' you feel, 'this is it this is what I came for.' It reaches deep inside you. It satisfies desires that you didnt know you had. It makes the world feel newly large and meaningful exactly, again, like art. The other thing that students say about their favorite teachers is he changed my life.