More and more research indicates that relationships matter in classrooms. Relationships between you and the students and among the students themselves. They foster more academic success and can change the way kids feel about coming to school every day – for the better.
I hope you’ll listen to the wonderful discussion I had with Dawn Casey-Rowe, Mike Anderson, and Dan Brown on this topic. It’s chock-full of ideas for how you can create trust and personal connection with students at the beginning of and throughout the school year.
Here’s what Dawn had to add:
Building relationships with students is the thing that makes them want to learn.
Be that teacher who cares and notices. Learn kids' names and passions. Look forward to seeing them. Meet them where they are and teach them in the ways they want to learn. Think: "If my students had the option, would they take my class?" Make sure that answer is "yes."
Connecting with students is magic. It produces more results than a thousand textbooks they don't want to read.
Kids tell me they feel school is too standardized and test-oriented. Those are things I can't control. What I can control is the environment I create, which gives students the desire to learn. By knowing students, I can get them to develop their areas of passions and even become passionate about areas they never even knew existed.
Sometimes, it's as simple as connecting students with the right mentors, or saying, "I read this book and thought of you." They'll do the work--I have to give them the reason. That's what relationship building does.
Many of the new standards (Common Core, VA Standards of Learning, etc.) are packed with social-emotional skills, and school in general is so collaborative, that it is crucial that teachers create learning environments where students are connected with each other and their teachers. This means that building community and strengthening relationships is a vital part of our academic instruction--not something to do before we start teaching academics or something to fit in around the edges. With that being said, we should also build community slowly and deliberately, integrating get-to-know-each-other activities into daily lessons while keeping the classroom climate safe. After all, though this is an important part of the first few weeks of school, it is also a year-long process!