Building Relationships with Students
-Beth Weiler and Robin Kress
“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”-Haim Ginott as presented in Mandt training materials.
I feel the need to seek out students who were in my classroom during my first years of teaching and apologize. As a twenty-two year old teacher, not much older than my senior English students, I was so worried that I would “lose control” of the classroom that I relied on the old adage of not smiling before Christmas. I wasted all that precious time being stern instead of building relationships with my students.
In the article Relating to Students: It’s What You Do That Counts, Marzano states, “Positive relationships between teachers and students are among the most commonly cited variables associated with effective instruction. If the relationship is strong, instructional strategies seem to be more effective.” While building strong connections may sound like an easy endeavor, it may take some of us out of our comfort zones.
Our students need to trust us in order to feel comfortable enough to take risks and to collaborate with us and others. But how do we build trust when we have thirty students in a classroom- all of them at different educational levels, from different backgrounds, and with different needs?
I am not sure I have a magical answer to that age-old question, but here are some ideas to begin your journey:
· Make it a priority to learn every student’s name by the end of the first week.
· Formulate a student questionnaire or ask them, “What are some things you want me to know about you. I was surprised, shocked, and dismayed with some of the personal information students have told me.
· Send home a parent questionnaire, “What do you want me to know about your child.”
· Start off each day or class period meeting and greeting each student by the door.
· Speak to the students with respect and watch your tone and facial expressions. According to Mandt, 55% of your communication is non-verbal.
Shout out to Chad Miller from CHS. My son is not an enthusiastic math student, but Mr. Miller has found a connection with him. In Tanner’s words, “He gets me. He sees when I have lost focus, and he gets me back to work. After class, we talk about cars and stuff.”
1) What is your “go to” in making connections with your students?
2) Think of a teacher connection you had when you were a student…what did that teacher do differently to reach you?
3) What is the “weather” like in your classroom?
4) Any helpful hints for those hard to reach students?
5) Are there any resources you need to facilitate more positive relationships with your students?