5 Easy Ways to Build Authentic and Genuine Relationships with Your Students
Back to school is quickly approaching. I have seen many blogs, articles, pins on Pinterest, and Instagram posts with suggestions on must do behavior management strategies for the first month of school. Yes! Behavior management is a key part of having a successful school year. It is the backbone of your classroom. Without this backbone, your entire school year would fall apart. BUT before we start focusing only on behavior management implementation we need to talk about what is going to help you become a successful teacher in the classroom-developing authentic and genuine relationships with your students. If behavior management is the backbone of your classroom then relationships are the heart. You MUST MUST MUST dedicate time to developing authentic and genuine relationships with your students. Below are 5 easy ways to help build positive interactions that you may want to start with on day 1.
1. Home visits and phone calls
Before school begins or during the first month I would highly suggest you make the time to either visit where your students live or make a phone call home to their parents/guardians. When I was teaching, I would carve out a week each summer before school began to go on home visits to every student I had the correct phone number for. I would allow 15 minutes per kiddo and go to their home to meet the family and read a short book. I was not paid extra money to go on these home visits, but I felt so strongly about the power they possessed that I did them anyway! The power of the home visit is it instantly starts the ground work for building a positive relationship with the family and the student. You can learn a lot about a students’ home life in a short 15 minute visit. If home visits are not something you are able to do or comfortable doing I would suggest making a phone call before school starts. You can introduce yourself and start off on a good foot with the parents.
2. Be authentic and genuine
This may seem like a no brainer but I think we as educators need a good reminder to do this sometimes. Being authentic and genuine includes smiling, making eye contact, having social conversations with students. Allow time for students to TALK to you and you talk to them. Teaching can be HARD and overwhelming. We often are so concerned and worried about meeting standards and preparing for assessments that we forget this very important part of our job! We must make the time to be sensitive and aware of not only the academic needs of our students but their emotional needs as well! They are both equally important.
3. Play games, sing songs, team build
Making the time to build a classroom community is so important! Kids LOVE to sing with you. If you aren’t a singer and that’s not your style make sure you are doing other things to build your classroom team! Play games! There are some great examples of fun team building games to play with your students ALL over Pinterest and Instagram. Use your teacher village and ask friends for game ideas. Remember 10-15 years ago when the buzz phrase for educators was: creating lifelong learners? Guess what promotes lifelong learners? Kids that LOVE learning. Make school fun! If your principal comes into your classroom and sees you playing games with your kids make sure and tell him/her that you are creating lifelong learners. What we need more of is creative thinkers instead of cookie cutter thinkers! Fostering an environment where your students feel safe to take risks and have fun with learning will promote creative thinking. We need to bring joy back into our kids’ journeys.
4. Allow kids ownsership of the room
Here is the deal… Pinterest decorated classrooms are lovely and fun. They in no way dictate if you are an effective teacher. They simply show if you’re a crafty guy or gal. I would suggest allowing a large chunk of your classroom open for the students to decide how the space should be used. Make sure and leave plenty of room on your walls for student work! Instead of choosing a classroom theme you may even want to allow students the opportunity to choose a fun theme. When students feel like they are a valued decision makers in the classroom they feel proud and will take better care of the materials and the room! It is a very doable way to give the students even more ownership of the classroom and their learning. It fosters an environment that says, “This is OUR class” versus “This is MY class”.
5. Develop classroom expectations together
This one fits right along with number 4. It is about giving autonomy and ownership back to your students. Eliciting their ideas and views about appropriate classroom expectations gives the students more buy in to how the classroom should run. Now of course there may be some expectations that you as a teacher or as a school already have in place and those expectations are nonnegotiable. That is fine! Just make sure you are still asking your students as a group what they see as valuable and reasonable expectations in the classroom. Like I mentioned at the beginning…classroom expectations are very important. The easiest way to help support effective behavior management is through authentic and real relationships with your students.