8 Simple Ways To Build Relationships With Your Students
When you think back on your education, what do you remember? I don’t remember the test I took or even class activities. What I remember are my teachers.
My strongest memories are of teachers that really connected with me and made me feel good about both school and myself. Of course, I can also remember the teachers that did the opposite: made me hate the class or feel stupid.
With all the pressure on data and testing, it can be easy for teachers to forget that the relationships we build with students are the most important part of our job. When students feel liked and respected, they are more likely to participate in class and respect their teacher.
Building relationships with students may take time – some students may have had bad experiences in the past at school or at home. Don’t give up on a student if they aren’t bowled over by your bubbling personality during the first week of school. Keep trying to get to know your students as the year goes on.
There are many simple ideas teachers can try to build student-teacher bonds. Here are eight easy ways that worked in my classroom.
Talk To Your Students
Find time to talk with students – chitchat. Learn what they like to do, ask about their family, etc.
I used my duty times to seek out and speak with as many students as possible. I had hall duty, so I spoke with all the students waiting to go to class. While we waited in the always-backed-up lunch line, I talked with students. At the end of the class, waiting for dismissal, I chatted with students.
These little moments can add up and make a big difference in your classroom culture.
Recognize The Positive
Sometimes teachers get so overwhelmed with putting out behavioral fires that we forget to recognize students – especially the ones that cause a lot of those fires.
A quick handwritten note or phone call home just to say something positive can build a bridge between you, the student, and the family. You can acknowledge the student verbally, but especially in middle school, you should consider how the student will receive praise publicly. It may be better to say something privately.
Having trouble finding something positive? Start with something small. Maybe the student brought a pencil. Perhaps they got out their notebook. Just say how much you appreciate the effort they are making to be prepared or succeed. Baby steps.
Many of the schools I have worked in required teachers to be at the door at the beginning of class. Greeting students as they come in can help set the tone for the class, and it can also give you a chance to see which students are coming in looking like they are having a rough day. Use this time to check in with your kids.
When the majority of the class is doing the right thing, thank the class. In general, show appreciation for when they are trying hard (even if it isn’t every student.) Did students clean up at the end of an activity without being harassed? Did the majority of the class sit down and get started when the bell rang? Just look for simple wins to praise.
Recognizing the small efforts make students feel appreciated and more likely to respect you later.
Apologize When You Are Wrong
Teachers are human. Sometimes we make mistakes. If you called out a student for something and then realized you were wrong, say you are sorry. Students will notice that you are fir and respect them.
Use Recess Or Clubs To Connect
When I taught elementary, I formed a walking club at recess. It was an excuse to get both myself and students moving.
I didn’t force the students to walk with me, but I always had a few that wanted to join my laps. These were usually the students who really wanted – or needed – some attention. It was mainly the quiet kids or students who hadn’t felt connected or appreciated by previous teachers.
I really got to know those students during recess, and the relationships I formed helped get some of those students to participate and try in class.
Student Of The Week
I had a Student of the Week (Star Student) program in elementary, but it could also be done in secondary classes. I chose students weekly because that allowed me to recognize almost everyone by the end of the year. (I would double up on students to fit everyone in.)
I wrote a simple note explaining why the student was chosen. I usually found something to praise – worked hard, persevered, kind to others, came prepared, etc. I read my reasons to the class on a Friday, then announced who it was at the end. Then I gave the letter to the student to take home.
The next week, the student was allowed to bring in photos or some small thing they wanted to display. I just used a tiny bulletin board in my room and a desktop if they brought in items to display. Sometimes they brought in a trophy from an extracurricular activity or something related to a hobby. This gave other students a chance to see the star student in ways they hadn’t before.
I personally haven’t used class journals, but I have teacher friends who have. Morning work or warm-up time is journal time. Students can write what they want, and the teacher reads so many a day and responds.
This gives students a chance to “talk” privately with the teacher, and it really builds a personal bond between them.
I hope this post gave you some simple ways to build relationships in your classroom. Do you have another idea? I would love to hear it!