Developing positive student-teacher relationships is a breeze when you practice these ten ways to connect with students.
Ways to Build Positive Student-Teacher Relationships
We all know that teaching is more than just passing on facts to students. We know that teaching is equipping, motivating, influencing, and shaping kids to be life-long learners and successful adults! Also, it is showing them how to interact with others and be productive citizens.
One of our most powerful tools for accomplishing these goals is positive student-teacher relationships. When they trust us, they are more able and willing to learn from us. The following are some ways to build positive student-teacher connections during the time you have together in the classroom or online when we are teaching remotely.
1. Positive Student-Teacher Relationships Require Getting to Know Your Students
This is the place to start! How can you have a relationship with people you don’t know?
Seek to find out about your students and to show interest in them. Many of these ideas work well toward the beginning of the school year. Repeat them as new students enter the classroom or join you virtually.
Alternately, repeat them at the end of the year to see how they have changed over the year.
- “All About Me” – Build confidence by having students write and share about themselves so that you can learn more about them. Schedule a few kids to share each day and encourage them to bring in something special to school or to share during an online morning meeting.
- Back to School Community Building Activities – These activities are the perfect companion to your start of school lesson plans. Find mini-lesson ideas and engaging activities that build connections in the classroom and teach valuable social and emotional skills to children during the most crucial time of year!
- Interview your students – Have a sit-down or face-to-face talk online with each student, asking them serious or fun questions to learn more about them.
- Presentations – Have students create a presentation about their life and present it to the class. Listen and ask questions after each presentation. This might be an excellent activity to repeat at the end of the school year to show how they have changed.
2. Listen to Your Students
As teachers, we can get so wrapped up in the things that we want to get done. We sometimes forget to slow down and truly listen to our students.
Establishing and maintaining a connection with students is vital and takes deliberate effort. Here are some ideas for keeping the lines of communication open.
- Morning meetings – this routine requires the whole class to come together each day and is a favorite routine among many teachers. During this time, listen to your students, and find out what they’re interested in, what their biggest worries are, and validate or repeat them, so they know you hear them and understand.
- Dialogue journals – This tool can be an ongoing way to touch base with students. Each student has a journal in which the teacher may ask a question or write a thought. Afterward, the student responds. The conversation can continue back and forth and cover any range of topics.
- “Office time” – If possible, have some time in the mornings or during times when students are not in your room that you are available if a student needs to discuss an issue with you. By letting the students know when this “office time” is, they will be able to come and talk to you alone, without their classmates listening. Offer “virtual office hours” for when you are available to meet with students online.
- Ice-Breaker games – These are fun ways to get students connecting in different ways. Find many enjoyable community-building activities, plus get to know you games that work well if you are teaching in person.
3. Develop a Positive Classroom Environment
If students are part of a positive class environment, they are more likely to be able to relax and connect to those around them. As teachers, we have a lot of power in setting the tone of the class.
- Use a positive rewards system – Rather than emphasize the negative and punishments, focus on rewarding positive behavior. Here is a set of editable reward coupons you can use that don’t involve the prize box. You can use Class Dojo to keep track of the rewards they earn whether you are in the classroom or online.
- Speak Calmly – A calm demeanor and slow, clear, and gentle speech are contagious. Even when things inside seem crazy, stay calm, and lead the way to productive conversation and leadership. Encouraging kids to remain calm and develop self-regulation strategies will lead to healthier relationships going forward.
- Morning meetings – Incorporate morning meeting time into each day as a way to connect with your students. Here are some great slides you can use throughout the year to facilitate conversation in your morning meeting time.
- Encourage kindness – Children will learn how to be kind to peers and authority figures when you set the tone and expectations for behavior, as well as provide learning opportunities for practicing kindness.
4. Develop Strategies to Deal with Stress and Frustration
One of the main hurdles of developing positive relationships with kids is our own frustration and impatience with them. Teaching (and parenting!) is hard. The truth is, dealing with little people all day can take a toll on our patience. Try some of these tips to decrease your stress so that you don’t miss out on crucial moments of connection with your kids.
- Music – Play relaxing music at appropriate times in the classroom. By doing so, you bring down the stress level of the classroom. Lowering the lights may help, as well. Try a classical music or productivity playlist to encourage focus and a calm environment for all!
- Organization – Stay organized! Disorganization can cause us to miss opportunities to connect with students. Keep an orderly and well-run system of classroom organization to alleviate some of the pressure.
- Relax and Have Fun – Try to bring light, enjoyable activities in the classroom or online whenever possible. Fun Friday is a great way to build fun into your classroom routines! Allow kids to select a “choice” activity for a chunk of the day and spend time with them during this time.
- Just Breathe – Practice breathing exercises to calm yourself down. Teachers and students benefit greatly from slowing down and practicing mindfulness.
- Focus on the positives – Each week, make a habit of writing down three good things that happened that week (or day). Practicing gratitude is a beneficial practice with positive results!
- Read children’s books – Prepare a bookshelf full of positive, social-emotional learning books or have online versions of books read aloud ready to play during meetings will benefit you and the kids throughout the year.
5. Teach and Model Positive Relationship Principles
We must teach by example. Teach kids how to interact positively with one another and with us. They watch how we act and model their behavior after ours. But they also have to be directly taught certain principles.
- Show kindness – Practicing kindness – and teaching it – can and should be encouraged! Here is a lesson plan bundle that can help you to teach about kindness.
- Teach Character – Focus on a “character trait of the week or month.” There are many opportunities in this to influence students for good. Teaching social-emotional learning in the classroom can reap a multitude of rewards.
- Read & Share – Read books and share videos that address character traits. Here are lists of books and videos that reinforce important social-emotional skills: responsibility, respect, kindness, friendship, self-regulation, and growth mindset.
- Pretend – Role-play how to act in certain situations. Sometimes kids don’t behave appropriately because they do not know how to! Spend time teaching kids how to listen and communicate appropriately and respectfully.
6. Give Students a Voice in the Daily Routine
By letting kids have some influence on the daily routines of the class, they can take more ownership of the class. They will feel more valued and accepted.
- Find their interests – Give surveys to see what things students are interested in and try to incorporate them into your lessons.
- Comment/Suggestion box – For teachers in the classroom, having a comment box is a good plan. Kids can write down concerns or suggestions in a non-threatening way.
- Rules Ownership – Let students help develop your classroom rules and expectations. Develop a classroom contract to share in setting the stage for a positive year!
- Student displays – Encourage kids to create decorations for the classroom, so they feel more ownership in the space. Displaying projects and artwork on the walls creates a colorful atmosphere that they can feel pride in. For students who are at home, encourage them to display their work on the fridge or a dedicate space and to upload images to share with the class.
7. Set a Respectful Tone
Student-teacher relationships will be much better if there is mutual respect.
- Patience – Don’t interrupt students when they are speaking. Practice “the pause” – wait a few seconds before responding, giving thought to their comments or questions first.
- Validation – Allow students to voice their opinions, even if you disagree. Show them by example, how to respectfully disagree without belittling or disregarding their beliefs or views. Validating them builds confidence and helps them open up to you more.
- Explicitly teach respect – Use these lessons that address such topics as respect in the classroom. Teaching respect has a considerable effect on the classroom community.
8. Positive Student-Teacher Relationships Includes Parents
Fostering good relationships with parents will help with the student-teacher connection. It is essential that teachers not forget the great ally they have in their parents.
- Access to Information – Have an online platform (such as a website, Google Classroom, or SeeSaw) or a folder that goes home or is used every day, so that communication can flow between teacher and parent. As a result, this will positively impact the connections with the student as well as the parents.
- Share the positives – Make sure to let parents know about the positive things their child does, not just the negative. For those teaching remotely, ask families to periodically share positive things their child is accomplishing at home and celebrate it during a class meeting.
- Invitation to Help – Invite parents to have more of a role in the classroom and at home, when possible. There’s always a place where they can join in the fun and lend a helping hand.
9. Share a Bit of Your Life with Students
Letting your guard down a little will break down barriers with your students. When they see you as a real human, not a “perfect” teacher, they will find you more approachable.
- What matters to you – Bring in something important to you and tell the class about it. Alternatively, you can have a special item to share with your students online for them to get to know more about you and your life.
- Personal Tidbits – Share a few pictures of your family or photos from the trips you have taken. You could even enlarge photos of past class field trips or events and post them around the room as conversation starters.
- Tell Stories – Share funny stories or even sad ones, with your students. Tell them about what things were like when you were in school.
- Read – Introduce them to your personal favorite children’s books and stories.
10. Make Personal Connections Each Day
Speaking to your students as they enter the classroom and exit will help them feel as though they are a vital part of the class. If you are teaching remotely, start the day with a virtual greeting and question.
- Beginning of the day – Stand in your doorway in the morning to greet students with a smile and personal greeting by name. Welcoming them ensures that each child has a personal one-on-one connection with you each day.
- End of the day – Have an exit question that the kids must answer at the end of the day to leave the room. Maybe this is connected to a lesson that was taught. Or, perhaps it is merely an answer to a question about the weekend. There are so many options. But it allows each student to be acknowledged as they leave the class for the day.
Although it takes some work, making meaningful connections with your students is well worth the effort. Your classroom, whether in person, or online, will run more smoothly, your students will increase their success, and you will have the joy of knowing that you are positively impacting others’ lives. It’s time to put some strategies into action!
Resources to Help you Build Positive Relationships in the Classroom
- SEL Morning Meetings
- Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum for K-2 and 3-5
- Kindness Challenge & Calendars
- Back to School SEL
Try a Free Week of Morning Meeting
Try social-emotional morning meetings in your classroom with this FREE week-long resource! It includes editable PowerPoint and PDF slides, printable cards, and instructions on how to use. Click the image below to grab a copy.
More Ways to Connect with Students
Relationships with Students from the Start
Friendship Activities and Lessons to Build Classroom Friendships
FREE Social Emotional Learning Email Series
Sign up for the social emotional learning email course filled with tips to get you started, lesson and activity ideas, PLUS tons of FREE resources you can access right away. Everything you need to teach social skills and emotional literacy in the classroom!
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