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7 Ways to Create Relationships with Your Students

Amanda Hall  |  July 12, 2021
Creating relationships with students is the most important thing in the classroom. When I was a new teacher, I didn’t realize how vital this was – it wasn’t something I learned in college. It comes before learning. It comes before testing. Without it, students won’t have an emotional connection to the material.

Creating relationships with a classroom full of kids can sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips to help you tackle creating relationships with your students from the start, which can be such a fun thing.
  1. Set the atmosphere on day one without changing how you are as a teacher.
I tell a lot of jokes, I embarrass them, I smile a lot. And I make sure not to seem like a robot or an authoritative figure. I read their tone and their energy, and I get better each year at creating relationships. There’s no one right way to do it, and it can be different for every teacher. I choose to be outspoken and energetic to reach them, but other teachers can be soft-spoken and gentle, and that works for them. Do what works best for you – find your groove. I didn’t start out singing and dancing in front of students, it took me a while to get there, but that’s who I am.
  1. Put yourself out there and be vulnerable.
Tell them about your pets and the things you like. They love learning about their teachers, especially the human things. There’s a fine line between being their friend and being their teacher – find a happy medium and roll with it.

Having relationships with students makes me more invested in being their teacher. There are days when I’m having an off day, but I’m motivated by those 30 kids who are sitting there waiting for me. If I walk in slouchy, bored, and sad, they’ll be slouchy, bored, and sad, and that’s not how I want their experience to be. I’m going to come in and give them my all because I know that’s what they expect.
  1. Learn about them!
About a month into school, I do an honesty letter activity where they can write anything they want their teacher to know confidentially. They share more than they will in person. It’s a really great way to let them open up without having to say anything. Sometimes they share really helpful information about what’s going on at home or why they might seem different sometimes.
  1. Be someone they can confide in.
If they feel comfortable talking to you, they might share things that help you understand their actions. Maybe one of your students is falling asleep in class. Like the honestly letter, you might learn that they’re used to staying with their mom and now they’re staying with their dad for a while and they didn’t sleep well that night. Anything you learn can help you understand them more. If they know you care enough to check in when they need support, then they’ll feel more comfortable.

Sometimes parents will flat out tell me if something different is going on at home so you can watch out for any change in behavior at school. And sometimes kids come to me with heavy things and don’t want me to tell their parents. Though I can’t promise that, I do tell them I’m honored they came to me.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a look. I’ll glance over and they’ll look back and I just know they’re having an off day. This is the beauty of getting to know them – it makes everything easier.
  1. Remember there are benchmarks along the way and each class is different.
Just as teachers are all different, so is each group of students you’ll encounter. There might be a year that they do not care for my singing, and I guess I’ll have to think of something else. If you’re forcing yourself to do something that isn’t you, they’ll read that. But if you’re confident in it, then most of the time they’ll receive it. Just be sure to set the tone – they will mimic you. If you’re not feeling it, they’re not going to feel it.
  1. Don’t be afraid to have fun with them.
I do all sorts of things in my classroom. I wear a basketball hoop on my head sometimes and we even have buzzers. I play a Kids Trap playlist on Spotify that my students love. It has a good beat, and even if my students say they think it’s cringy, they secretly love it. I’m also a die-hard microphone user. They see that I’m confident doing it, so they do it, too. We even do a Friday dance party during pack up and dismissal where we bring out the microphone (of course I have one in my classroom – it’s gold).

Sometimes kids even use the microphone for the presentations. They benefit so much from these things. It’s instant engagement. Students could not want to read out loud, but if I bring out the microphone, it’s a whole different story.
  1. But remember it doesn’t have to be fun and games all the time.
All the fun things help me build relationships with students and keep them engaged. They’re also more engaged on slower days, because they know I care and they know we will do more fun things in the future. I have honest conversations with them about how sometimes we’re going to do this thing and we aren’t going to sing and dance and we’re going to learn, and that helps when we have off days when we can’t sing and dance or do experiments.

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