It’s coming…the beginning of the school year…new students…new challenges! One thing that stays the same is how you can interact with your students to make strong, lasting relationships with them so they will trust your intentions.
I have been an educator for over 15 years. In that time I have watched and tried to analyze why some students seem to be drawn to certain types of teachers more than others. I know I cannot be all of these characteristics that I am about to show you, I am just myself. However, I can try to nurture and step out of the box to help my students learn who I am and exactly what I expect of them.
Talk about yourself
Tell them stories about your family, pets, hobbies, and funny classroom stories that you’ve experienced.
They can be silly jokes, one-liners, puns, or knock knock jokes. It doesn’t matter what age either. At this time I teach high school ESL students and one of my favorite jokes is “What did Tigger see when he looked into the toilet?” Answer: Pooh. Now most American students would understand this joke since they have probably heard of Winnie the Pooh. And I have also come to realize that non-American students may or may not have also heard of Winnie the Pooh. So with a little bit of explanation from either myself for a fellow native speaker, the smile may come on or their eyes will roll. Either way you have made a small connection with your students.
This connection takes a little time for the students. They have to see that everything you say to them will be followed through. If for some reason you can’t follow through then you need to be honest and explain why.
Listen to them
If a student walks up to your desk wanting to tell you something, give them your undivided attention. If you are busy, ask them to please wait and give them an idea of how long so they aren’t just standing there wondering when you will be done.
Learn from them
Students have a lot to offer. Ask them questions about their day or their interests. Then later on in the school year you will have a conversation starter and be able to learn even more from them.
Apologize if necessary
One day I thought a student took a candy prize off of my desk. I told them that I may be mistaken, but I would hope that no one stole anything from me because I would lose their trust and it is very difficult to get that back. I told them that we would not have anymore games and prizes. Then I turned around and there was the candy where I had left it. Oh my gosh, did I feel dumb. I immediately looked at all the students and said “I am so happy that this was my mistake and that nobody stole from me”. I told them I was sorry and we moved on with class. I’m not perfect. They’re not perfect. It’s life.
Hold beginning of class discussions
Use the beginning of class as either a classroom discussion, have a student spend one minute talking about what they did over the weekend, or walk around the room while the students are talking to each other and personally engage with them.
Use activities that create conversations
Creating activities that also act as conversation starters are another way to build connections with your students. For example, in my Teachers Pay Teachers store I have growth mindset activities. Students solve their math problems. The answers create a growth mindset quote that can be discussed in your class.
Attend extracurricular activities
When a student asks you to come to their band concert, sports event, karate presentation, or art show try to go. Some students may not have the support at home and you might be the very one they are depending on. Additionally when you go to these outside events, you will have chance to meet parents and other family members.
Set aside time for individual students
Be available and consistent so they know they can depend on you. Hold office hours before or after school for this reason. If you are willing to give up your lunch period and have students hang out in your room this is another way to connect with them.
Depending on the atmosphere of the class for the day, you may need to change it up on a whim. Let them know that this is life and things sometimes change. Try to always change things in the students’ favor. Then when you MUST make a change that the students may not like you can remind them of all the other times you changed things for them.
Are you ready to make strong, lasting relationships?
Keep track of the students you are connecting with. Try to reach out to all of them during the week or every two weeks. Be positive and actively listen. Take notes if you need to so you can remember things they’ve told you.
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What are some ways you build strong, lasting relationships with your students? Let me know in the comments below.