Besides instilling routines and classroom management into your classroom, connecting and building relationships with students during Back to School time is so vital.
It will set your year for you.
Students will feel connected with you, connected together and bonded. Your students will desire to behave better because they love being around you and want to make you happy because they care about you. In a time we live in, having lived in a pandemic and the trauma that most of our students have felt, this Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is even more vital.
Students need to learn to handle their emotions and and deepen their understanding of others in an environment where they feel safe.
When we connect with them we build trust and build relationships. Our students respond better to us when they have connected with us. They want to come to school and learn because they enjoy being with us.
Not only do we need to connect with our students, but our students need to connect with each other. It is vital at the beginning of the school year that students develop relationships with their classmates, this will help group projects go better, editing papers to go well and students will feel more confident sharing in front of the classroom and they will handle their emotions better. There are many ways to connect students together at the beginning of the year.
I know that connections with students work because I see the way my students treat each other. Other teachers and students comment on the way my class is connected with each other. They stand up for each other, respect each other and support each other.
Some of the ways that I build connection with students are:
- Get to know You Activities
- Team Building Activities
- Comment on things you notice (hair cut, new shoes, new pencil, on time for school). Actually say “I noticed you got a hair cut” Students like to be noticed. It makes them feel special and noticed by you.
- Comment on ways they are doing good (putting trash away, being a good listening, good handwriting, in line quickly, including others)
- Remember their name (especially at the beginning of the year) and know how to pronounce it. Call them by name instead of “friend” or something other than their name.
- Physical Connection (hugs, high fives, knuckles)
- Ask how their weekend/night was, then remember what they say and ask further questions later
Ex: How was your weekend?
Student: My dog got sick.
Teacher: Oh, no, I am so sorry. That must have been scary for you.
Student: I cried, I was really sad
Next day: Teacher: How is your dog doing?
- Share what you like to do. Your students should know your favorites.
- Share personal stories; about your weekend, your day to day life, the good and the bad
- Share personal pictures/videos of you and your family
- Do quick questions: Asking them questions quickly that they answer quickly without thinking. Then use this information later in your lessons or in other conversations with them.
- Giving Empathy when they are sad, hurt or upset
I wanted to share two stories of where having that personal connection really helped two of my students and helped me to have a much better school year.
Names, years and grades have been changed to protect the students in these connection stories.
The class lists were issued out one year mid summer. I open up my email and glanced down the list. Many of the students I was familiar with and some were new to the school. One name stood out to me, Luis Stoddard. Seriously, I got Luis, I said. Of all kids I got this one. This boy had gotten in more fights in his school days than I had fingers and toes. He was in constant trouble and I suddenly was dreading the first day of school. After about 20 minutes of drowning in my own pity I started to be real with myself. They must trust me that I can handle him.
I knew Luis attended the summer program at school, so each day I want to my classroom, I stopped by the summer program and greeted him with open arms and a big hug. I told him each time how I was so excited that he got to be in my class this year. He would smile from ear to ear. Soon it wasn’t just me hugging him, but he hugged back. Our conversations went from basic to more in depth as the weeks went on. I invested in him. I showed interest in his interests.
On the first day of school I had built a rapport with him, he trusted me and listened to me. I was firm and let him know what I expected of him right in the beginning. I gave him attention, hugs and kept him accountable for his actions. That year, he got into 1 fight.
Another student I want to tell you about is Trevor. Trevor was constantly off task, he wouldn’t do any work at all, he would pester the other students, goof off and he had one particular student that he just had it out for. Nothing I did made the situation better. I would sit him outside, talk to him about it, give him consequences, and he just kept getting in trouble and making my life really difficult.
One Monday morning I gave Trevor a hug and he hugged me back so hard! I asked him about his weekend and he talked and talked. At recess I gave him another hug and asked him about his mom. Then, at lunch I gave him another hug and we talked about soccer. At the end of the day I gave him a hug good bye and told him he had an amazing day and I was excited for tomorrow. Trevor had his best day all year.
Trevor seemed content that his needs had been met. He wasn’t needing attention from the other students, he didn’t need more of my attention and he was able to focus more on his work. We continued these hugs and conversations day after day. Somedays at recess I would walk laps and Trevor would walk with me and just talk. He began to excel better in school. He was doing his work.
However, when he would go to his specials classes, he was still the same Trevor. I tried to let his specials teachers in on the secret, but they didn’t have the time to invest. At the end of the year, he should have been held back due to his low levels of skills, but I was looping with this class and knew that if he stayed with me and we continued with this rapport he would excel.
The next school year started and Trevor walked in on day one and we picked up right where we left off. He was so excited to see me and I actually missed him. He excelled so much that year that by the end of the year he was reading on grade level. I was so excited for him. Years after when he saw me in the hallway, he always stopped for a hug and he did well with his next teacher.
I had learned this concepts from a seminar that I went to called Love and Logic for Teachers. Love and Logic had been my “go to” parenting technique for many years, so when a chance to go to the conference came up, I jumped at it. I learned so much about connecting with students and ways that we can connect with each of our students throughout the year and how this impacts our classroom management.