As a teacher, you know how important it is to build relationships with students. Creating strong relationships with your students helps them feel more comfortable in the classroom, but a good teacher-student relationship also encourages them to learn and grow. Making connections with a room full of unfamiliar faces can be a daunting task, particularly when you’re starting a new school year.
Here are some ideas to help you build relationships with students.
1. Get to Know Your Students
It’s so much easier to build relationships with students if you know about them. Take time to learn their names, their interests, and any challenges they may be facing. Give them interest surveys to see what kinds of activities they like (and don’t like) in classes. I regularly ask students for feedback on activities, because if they don’t like what we are doing, it’s just not going to be fun for anyone!
During the back to school season, you can use icebreakers or other interactive activities to encourage students to share their interests and experiences. You’ll have a better understanding of how to connect with them individually, and they’ll get to know a little about one another. It’s so much easier to build relationships with students when you know them.
2. Be Authentic
Kids want to be around teachers who are authentic. When you’re working to build relationships with students, remember to keep it real! They don’t care about how much you know. They care about who you are and how they feel in your classroom. Let your personality shine through, and share a little about yourself and your interests. When students feel that they’re interacting with a real person and that you care about their success, they’ll be more likely to engage with you.
My students have always known how much I love cats and that I love to run. They know I love Halloween and that I love puns. These aren’t super-personal details, but it lets them know I’m a real person. When I mess up, I own up to it. When I don’t know something, I admit it. I hope that by being real, it helps them to relax a little when they need help from me.
3. Celebrate Successes and Achievements
Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and student accomplishments should be proudly celebrated. Take the time to celebrate their achievements, both big and small, and recognize their hard work and dedication. Celebrating success encourages positive behaviour and motivates students. When you want to build relationships with students, finding the good in them goes a long way!
Not all students are going to be successful in the same way, so it’s important to not set one standard for success. If a student struggles to complete work, success for him or her may be turning assignments in on time. For another student, success may be having an organized binder for the first time.
One way I love to celebrate success is to write little notes on Post-its and place them on a student’s desk when I notice they have done something well. I try to find a reason to celebrate everyone each month, because I want everyone to feel noticed and appreciated. It’s not just the A students who are showing up and trying, so it should not be just the A students who get celebrated. It’s a quick and easy way to build relationships with students!
4. Demonstrate Empathy
As you work to build relationships with students, try to be empathetic. Remember that for many students, school can be a challenging and even intimidating environment. Showing that you care about your students’ needs and feelings is essential in fostering positive relationships. When students feel like they can come to you with questions or concerns, they’ll be more engaged in the classroom overall.
If you see a child struggling to finish work, don’t assume the child is doing it to make you mad or to misbehave. Try to find out why so you can help. You may want to reach out to the school counselor or a previous teacher for some insight. More than anything, avoid sarcasm and snarky comments, because you’ll squelch any connection you might have had with that student.
If you have students with IEPs and 504s, reach out to the person who oversees them if you have questions. It’s so important to really understand what a student needs, but when we are busy (and we are!) it can be challenging to provide the right accommodations. Don’t be afraid to get help! I know that sometimes I have tried all the things listed and they just didn’t work for me. Rather than give up or get frustrated with the student, I was empathetic and I got help. My background is not special education, so it just makes sense to get help from the expert, right?
5. Create a Positive, Welcoming Environment
Finally, it’s important to create a positive, welcoming environment in your classroom. A classroom that’s inviting and safe will make students much more comfortable, which goes a long way when you are trying to build relationships with students. Building a classroom community makes your class a place they want to be!
Consider having a quiet corner where students can go when they need a break. If you can, adding a few comfy chairs can be a nice treat, especially in a secondary classroom where we might have a much more structured layout. Small touches like this can make a big difference in connecting with your students.
Building relationships with students is one of the most important things you can do as a teacher. By taking the time to really connect during the back to school time, you’ll form great relationships that will make your job so much easier for the rest of the year! With a little effort and some student feedback, you can build relationships with students to ensure that your classroom is a place where everyone is welcome and learning is a top priority.