Even the most thought-out lesson plans can fall flat if your students don’t respect and trust you. Every single school year you are given a new set of students, which means every single year you have to build a new relationship with your class.
You can’t assume that just because you are the teacher that your students will respect you. You have to put in the work to create a connection with your class. You have to get to know your students, accept them, and actually listen to their concerns.
But how do you do it? This isn’t something that happens overnight, but over days and weeks during the start of the school year. And while building a rapport is a lot of hard work, the methods for doing so aren’t that bad.
- Make a Good First Impression
The start of the school year is an important time, and giving a good first impression is paramount. You’re going to have students who don’t like school or who aren’t interested in your subject. The way you approach meeting your students is an important first step to building a relationship.
Greet each of your students individually as they enter the classroom. You may even introduce yourself with a handshake on the first day. This is an excellent way to show respect for your students. By modeling respect, you are encouraging students to respect you in turn.
When you first address your class, do so positively. You don’t want the first impression your students have of you to be associated with negativity or anger. Smile a lot and use some humor. Be encouraging. It is important that you get the school year off to a good start with a positive first day.
- Stand In The Hall Between Classes
This gives you a chance to interact more with your students. Say hello to students. Pay attention to them. Notice when something changes, such as new shoes or a new haircut. This also makes it easier for you to greet each student as they enter the room. This is the easiest way to encourage casual conversation with students, whether you’re discussing hobbies or class work.
Standing in the hallway is also a deterrent for bullying in the halls. Keeping an eye on your students outside of class will also give you a good idea of who has friends or significant others.
You could stay in your classroom to try and get some work done, but there isn’t a lot you can get done between passing periods. Instead, use that time to show your students you are available to talk.
- Attend School Events
While no one would expect you to attend every school event, going to several is a great way to show your support for your students. Many students participate in sports, theater and music productions, and other after school activities.
This makes it easier for you to comment on what students do in their free time, and shows you have a genuine interest in your students beyond their academics.
- Find The Good In All Your Students
It doesn’t matter how good of a teacher you are – you are going to run into students you simply don’t like. Maybe this is because of behavioral issues, a lack of drive, or simply because your student has very different opinions from you. No matter what it is, it’s important to see the good in all your students, even ones you may feel inclined to complain to colleagues about.
What makes each of your students special? What are their hobbies? What music do they like? Never forget that your students are people dealing with their own problems. School isn’t their entire life, and there is much more to a person than how they behave in the classroom. Put in the extra attention to make it easier to connect with your students.
- Understand The Community
The community your school is in has a huge impact on your students. This is the community where they go to school, but also the community where they sleep, shop, play, and relax. If you don’t understand the community, you’re going to have a hard time understanding your students.
Don’t just do research about the community, get out there and experience it. Talk to colleagues and administrators about what the community is like. It doesn’t matter if the community is one of privilege or not; you need to get to know the community no matter where it is if you want to have meaningful connections with your students. By understanding where they come from, you are able to respect their struggles and become a better educator.
- Never Assume
Avoid stereotyping your students at all costs. While stereotypes may be a good starting point at the beginning of the school year, don’t let those stereotypes cloud your view of how your students really are. All students are different and a stereotype cannot give you a full understanding of your students.
Talk to your students. Get to know them. Pay attention to the things they do and ask, when appropriate, why they do those things. You may think you’ve seen it all, but no two students are alike and it’s important to remember that.
Building a genuine relationship with your class takes time, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away. Just keep working at it! If you’re looking for more advice, we have a ton of teacher resources available on our website.
What’s your favorite way to build classroom community?