Building Relationships with Your Students 

By Nancy Mikhail

Building relationships with students is crucial for building a solid teacher-student connection filled with mutual respect and trust. This connection creates a safe environment for students. As a result, students are more motivated to learn and minimize classroom disruption. “Aligned with attachment theory (Ainsworth, 1982; Bowlby, 1969), positive teacher-student relationships enable students to feel safe and secure in their learning environments and provide scaffolding for important social and academic skills (Baker et al., 2008; O’Connor, Dearing, & Collins, 2011; Silver, Measelle, Armstron, & Essex, 2005).” When students feel safe in their learning environments, they are more likely to take risks in the classroom and have a better relationship with their peers.

Creating a bond with your students also helps them academically: “Studies of math competence in students transitioning from elementary to middle school have found that students who move from having positive relationships with teachers at the end of elementary school to less positive relationships with teachers in middle school significantly decreased in math skills (Midgley et al., 1989).” The bond between student and teacher is typically stronger in elementary education, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be the same for secondary education. It’s all dependent on the time the teacher takes to get to know her/his students. Student motivation is another possible reason for a stronger academic outcomes. Students tend to be more motivated to learn when they have the positive and caring support of the teacher (Wentzel, 1998).

Here are some ways you could build relationships with your students:

1. Take a survey of their interests

Often teachers collect data on how well students perform on assessments, how much effort they put into their work, and the kinds of grades students deserve. Teachers may collect data on students’ personal lives; however, we tend to focus on numbers and performance. We never know what occurs in students’ lives and having that knowledge as their teacher could really give insight to your students. Teachers are very good at giving their students a survey at the beginning of the year, reading over it, then filing it away. Mindshift posted an article entitled “Rethinking Data: How to Create a Holistic View of Students,” and suggested making a 360 spreadsheet laying out all of students interests, family life, food and drink the students like, and other small pieces of information that could be useful for teachers… all on one sheet. This is a great idea to keep in a binder you look at regularly, which will encourage you to take quick glances at the spreadsheet to keep your students’ interests in mind.

2. Two-minute intervention

Allen Mendler suggests having a daily 2-minute intervention in his book, Motivating Students Who Don’t Care. A 2-minute intervention means that you take two minutes every day to just converse with your students. This time is meant for getting to know your students, and also gives them an opportunity to get to know you. During these two minutes, students and teachers are primarily discussing interests, any events that occurred over the weekend, and so forth. This time is not meant for any class business or lessons. These two minutes a day could drastically grow your relationship with your students since you’re taking the time to make a connection with them everyday.

3. Class discussions

Having an open discussion with your students about various topics could really help build relationships with your students. For example, you could have a weekly class discussion about a current event. No paper, no pencils, just students sitting in a circle discussing an important topic.(Time For Kids has informative and appropriate articles for young students.) By having regular class discussions, this also gives you and the students an opportunity to get to know one another. It also gives you the opportunity to know what students are thinking and their view points on certain topics.

Building relationships with your students could decrease classroom behavior issues and strengthen your connection and relationship with your students. Take the time to build these relationships. Students are more likely remember their relationship with you rather than which assignment you gave to them.

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