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3 Pillars of Creating Relationships with Students in an Urban Environment

Deonte Bridges  |  July 02, 2021
Even as a child, I’ve always had a passion for serving the community. As I navigated through school, especially high school, people started asking me what my plans were and what I was planning to study. At the time, I didn’t have a sense of direction in regard to what I wanted to study.

So I started studying business, but then I transferred schools and realized how much I wanted to stay in the community that raised me. My college didn’t have an education program, but they did offer sociology. I liked learning how systems worked. I learned that Martin Luther King Jr. also earned a degree in sociology. I had a lot of great educators who inspired me to get back into the community I loved.

I now teach at a school in an urban environment. It’s home for me. My high school and college are 10 minutes from the school I teach at now. It’s the community I grew up in, and that makes it even more special and meaningful for me. It’s definitely an urban environment, and it’s one that is plagued by some of those detrimental factors that we often associate with urban environments. But at the same time, it’s full of purpose, promise, and potential. I want to do my part in cultivating that potential and promise I see in my scholars because at one point in time, I was that student. My teachers saw something in me and invested their time, efforts, and resources. I think it’s only right that I do the same thing.

And it all comes down to building relationships with the students. Here are three pillars of creating relationships with students in an urban environment that I take to heart.
  1. Be authentic.
First and foremost, be authentic. It helps me a lot that I grew up in the community my scholars are now growing up in, but that’s not the case for everyone. You can grow up in the same community as your students and still struggle with connecting with them. Students can read directly through you. Being authentic, truly meeting them where they’re at, and getting to know them beyond the surface level make all the difference. I try to be as transparent as possible when I talk to my students. Whether it’s something on a personal level or about things that are going on in the community or the world. They value honesty. Here are some more ways to be authentic with your students
  1. Be patient.
You can’t force relationship building with students. Sometimes you just have to sit back and trust the process. It takes time to make connections. All you can do is make yourself available and remember that it will happen in its own time. You might be able to build relationships with one group of students quickly, and it might take a little longer with another class. Be intentional about making yourself available to your students and carve out time to get to know them. Read more about why patience is so important in the classroom here.
  1. Take your teacher hat off.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up and consumed in what is right or wrong in the teacher world. Of course you respect the code of ethics, but I think sometimes we take it a little too far and it can be a detriment. I go to the park to play basketball with my students. Not all teachers agree with this, but it helps me connect with my students. They think it’s cool that I show up. I’m able to build on those relationships, and we bring it back to the classroom.

Sometimes you have to take your teacher hat off and just be there for them. When you build strong relationships, they try harder. Knowing that you care about them helps solidify relationships, and that’s where the learning starts. You can show up for them in ways that help them see you in a different light and as a role model or a mentor. A student once told me in the middle of a lesson that I was like a father figure to him. That moment gave me confirmation that I was doing the right thing and I was making an impact.

Learn more about taking your teacher hat off here.

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