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Many of us can recall a teacher who engaged us in learning. Probably, that teacher connected with us and inspired us to learn.
How you make students feel loved and valued is one of the most important impressions you can leave on them as an educator.
It is also true that students who are not supported by their teachers can have a negative impact on their academic performance, increase their chances of engaging in disruptive behavior and even influence their decision to drop out. Over-supporting can also be bad. If a teacher receives a question like “How to cheat on a proctored exam?” and gives a positive and supportive response, it can ruin the whole image of education. So it’s important to stay balanced first.
Building strong relationships with students is one of the best ways to increase student engagement. Strong relationships are even more important after a year of feeling disconnected and physically distant.
These six strategies will help you build strong relationships between teacher and student.
1. Show students that you care
Students often believe that teachers don’t care about them, which is a sad trend. To build strong teacher-student relationships, it is important to communicate your feelings clearly with students so that they feel you care.
Here are some ways you can show your students that you care.
- Pay attention to how you speak to students, especially when they are talking to their peers.
- List all your students and rate how well you know them. Learn more about students at the bottom of your list. These students often benefit from additional attention.
- Every day, say hello to and goodbye to your students.
- Ask students about their personal lives. You can invite students to regular morning meetings and ask them about their lives outside of school.
- Ask questions and listen to students to show that you care about them. This can be done in class discussions or individually or in small groups.
- Students who exhibit high emotions, disrupt class or appear withdrawn should be given extra attention
2. Establish mutual trust
In any relationship, mutual trust is essential. Teachers often have to lead the trust-building process with students. You can build trust by sharing about your life. It doesn’t have to be personal. However, sharing about your life with students outside of school, or how you overcome an obstacle, will help them see themselves as real people. They might also feel valued because they are openly sharing their lives.
Trust can be built by giving students the opportunity to choose. Students should be given choices as often as possible. You could do this in the assignments they submit, or how they demonstrate certain skills or knowledge.
It is also possible to build trust by asking students what their challenges are and then helping them resolve or reduce them. You might provide extra support and direct students to the resources they need. You might offer free school lunches, and tutoring services, and/or connect students to counselors or social workers.
Trust can also be built by advocating for students and acting in their best interest. You could do this by participating in disciplinary meetings to support your students or working with other educators on interventions such as restorative justice circles.
3. Take into account the perspectives of students
As we encourage students to be compassionate and to think from the perspective of others, it is important to try to understand your students’ experiences. You may not know that students may be facing hardships at home or in their personal lives. Is the student bullying others because he or she was bullied? Does the student often arrive late to work in order to support his family? Does the student struggle to focus in class due to a lack of money? You can understand the root cause and how to address it by putting yourself in the shoes of students.
These questions will help you to understand the perspectives of students.
- What could be causing the problem behavior outside of the classroom?
- What percentage of students receive negative or positive feedback?
- Do you seem to care about the student?
- What does the student think of you?
You might be surprised by the answers! It is also possible to ask the student directly what he or she thinks of school, teachers, or the school environment.
4. Practice constructive discipline
Correcting bad behavior can help you build relationships with your students. Respect is the number one rule in the discipline. Your relationship with your student can be damaged if you lose your temper or react with sarcasm. Instead, take a deep breath and give a fair and meaningful consequence. Respect and care for the student. Communicate in a manner that respects and preserves their dignity.
Equity is important in corrective and discipline behavior. Research has shown that students of color are subject to more disciplinary action. Make sure that all students are treated equally and reduce unconscious bias.
5. Encouragement words
Encouragement words can make a big difference in building trust, mutual respect, as well as a strong teacher-student partnership. Take this example from the webinar: Implementing and Sustaining Self-Empowerment in Alternative Settings using New Visions AIM1&2. A teacher told a story about a student who was known for being a troublemaker. Each day, the teacher would write a note encouraging the student every day. The student nearly wept when she realized that her notepad was gone. She asked her where it was. He told her that his mom was proud of the notes, and would put them on the fridge. The teacher also realized how important the notes were to the student. The student began to open up to her and started respecting her rules. He was also less disruptive and made an effort to be in her class.
6. Get to meet the families of students
If you haven’t already, introduce yourself to your student’s parents and caregivers. This can help foster effective communication. It can also be helpful for students who are disruptive or withdrawing from the class. Because your efforts demonstrate that you care enough for students to be interested in their families and homes, connecting with families can strengthen teacher-student relationships.
You can also communicate with students’ families to let them know if there is anything wrong. You can speak with students to offer support and help, as well as connect them to external resources if something is going on at home.
Strong relationships are a key component of any SEL program. They can increase student engagement and achievement. To show students that you care about them and to help them succeed, take an active part in connecting with them. Students will be more likely to love school and perform well, as well as follow the rules and policies of their class if they feel you care.