One of the best ways to develop an effective learning environment is by getting to know who your students are. When these relationships are built and supported through positive interactions, successful academic learning is more likely to occur. In addition, these relationships can help prevent harm caused to others because there is a foundational connection that is felt amongst everyone in a classroom.
The following outlines a few ways that we can all work to build relationships within our school:
Take time to really hear what your students are telling you. When I say listening, I am talking about really hearing them and acting on what you hear. Bring up what you’ve heard in appropriate ways throughout the week so that your learners truly feel valued.
If a student shares that they do not like being late for certain things throughout the day, that should be taken into consideration when dismissing for rotations, Mindlabs, lunch, electives, etc. By pointing out the fact that you are aware of this, the learners will feel more valued.
One way to get the opportunity to listen to your learners is through the activity, I Wish My Teacher Knew. This activity simply asks the students to share three things that they wish their teacher knew. I have seen answers range from “I wish my teacher knew I like apples” to “I wish my teacher knew I need a jacket, but we can’t get one until next month.” This is a great way to hear what your students have to say especially for the ones who are less likely to share. It is also important to take time to reflect on the responses of the students and recognize them in class when appropriate.
This goes for both the students and the teacher as well! It is important for everyone to recognize what they are working towards. When we are aware of each other’s goals, we can give each other support in working towards accomplishing those goals. The entire classroom community should have some kind of idea about what everyone else is working towards. This can build relationships throughout the classroom because it gives the opportunity for all learns to support each other. If a student knows that another student is working on a particular goal they have a lot of experience in, that can be the foundation of a positive relationship is they are given the opportunity to share their goal and opportunities to work towards accomplishing it.
These questions can be as simple as is appropriate, but they can work towards getting to know your learners as individuals. This gives the learners the opportunity to share as much as they want. It also gives you more information about who the learners are in your classroom.
Instead of giving direct orders, the students will be more receptive to responding if questions are asked that guide the group towards a common objective. Instead of saying, “You have to be on task,” asking, “Why aren’t you working on task,” will force the student to reflect on their actions and adjust as necessary.
Beginning and Ending the Day
I have noticed more and more teachers starting the day with a high five, hug, or a handshake in the morning when they greet their students. This is such a positive way to get the day going. Students are immediately recognized and start the morning feeling valued.
This is also a time to see each student in the morning. A lot of times, a students’ emotions are shown on their face. When we greet them in the morning, we can have those few minutes before school starts to recognize the current needs of everyone. This information can be used to adjust how we question the student and it can let us know which students are prepared to learn and which students need a little more emotional support before starting their day.
It is equally valuable to end the day with a positive interaction. This last moment before the students go home can get very chaotic! However, it is important to take a few minutes and end the day in a meaningful way. This is the last impression that we have to make before the students go home. We do not want it to be one that is rushed and lacks sentiments of caring.
Notice the body language, facial expressions, and mannerisms of your students. This can tell us a lot about how they are feeling and how much of a challenge they are prepared to handle in that current moment. That does not mean go easy and expect less academically of them. Instead, it means that we should be aware and if we notice that a student is struggling, give them the support that is going to make them and the rest of the class more successful. Sometimes that support may be as simple as saying, “I noticed that you do not feel like your usual self this morning. I want you to know that I am here for you.” Other times, it may be more complicated and there is a need for immediate intervention. Regardless of the situation, if there is a relationship that has been built, the student will be more prepared to receive your support.
Students are going to get frustrated as are teachers at time. When we use encouragement to support others and help them push through these struggles and even, at times, learn from them, they are more likely to be reflected upon with positivity.
Part of encouraging others is helping them recognize that a fault can be easy to correct. Once a fault has been recognized, students should be supported in correcting it and in making strives to improve upon current practices.
Encouragement can be done by supporting them as they work and as they take on challenges that are incredibly difficult.
Trust Circles with a Purpose
Trust circles have long been a go to for building relationships in classrooms and across campus. When they have a purpose, they are incredibly beneficial. In order to make them purposeful, it is important to recognize what is going on in the classroom. If you notice that students seem to be getting frustrated with the complications they are facing in math, that is a great time to start discussing the importance of facing challenges and how working together can support us as we do that. If you notice that there is a lack of social intelligence, that is a great opportunity to bring up what social intelligence is and how it is helpful both in class and out of class. Trust circle topics should reflect common themes that are going on in your class and work towards building a community. This will help future harmful interactions be eliminated because a community has been built and those relationships are being supported as students continue working together.
Overall, building relationships is something that needs to be continuous. The more positive interactions we can provide with our students, the more they will learn how to interact with kindness and good intentions as they progress towards their goals.