You might hear the advice to build relationships with students to improve your teaching. What is talked about less often are the Dos and Don’ts of building those relationships. Read on to find the keys to building better relationships with students

Do: Show Up for Kids

Whenever possible, try to attend at least one of every type of event your students participate in at school. It matters so much to the kids to see you there. Pick a day that works for you, not a day that will stretch you too thin. Bring your family and make an outing of it if you have family obligations. Make it fun for yourself and allow yourself to have a good time. You don’t have to go to every game, but make it a point to go to one football game, one volleyball game, a choir concert, and a band concert, or whichever activities are most relevant to the most of your kids. Take pictures with your students and make memories.

Don’t: Connect with them on Social Media

Students and teachers on social media do not mix. Even if you have a teacher page, don’t risk it. In fact, many districts don’t allow teachers to interact with students. As teachers, we need to be very careful of our online presence. If a student finds you, don’t allow them to follow you by blocking them if necessary. Just explain to the student later that it is not personal, but you don’t allow any students to connect with you on social media.

Don't connect with students on social media.

Do: Show Interest in Their Interests

Ask students about themselves. Greeting students at the threshold of your room is a great way to do this. I like to ask kids about their drawings. I notice the patterns they choose to wear and ask. For example, from a student wearing a sweater with butterflies often, I asked if she liked butterflies. Her face lit up when she realized I noticed this little detail about her. Find something about the student that can help them feel seen. \

Don’t: Be Someone You Are Not

I’m very different than most of my students. My cultural background is different than most of my students. My music tastes, fashion, and more are completely different than my students. While I try to stay knowledgeable about what they are into, and I honor their experiences and interests, I don’t fake it. If I don’t know about something, I don’t try to pretend to. I let the kids inform me instead. They love having a moment to teach the teacher. The kids respect that I don’t try to be cool to them. I’m dorky. I’m lame. I’m unapologetically and professionally me and they love me for it. How do I know they love me? When we had a fundraiser where students got to purchase tickets to pie a few different staff members, not a single student opted to buy a ticket to pie me in the face.

Do: Discipline with Love

Kids need boundaries. Kids want to know that you are fair and that your expectations are consistent. I like to use CHAMPS to detail out the behaviors I want to see in my classroom from our Do Now, to the I Do, We Do, You Do, and the Exit Ticket. There is no question of what behavior I want to see and I enforce it. I even have rules about student listening posture, called SLANT (Sit Up, Lean Forward, Ask and Answer Questions, Nod Your Head, Track the Speaker). This isn’t my idea, it comes from Teach Like a Champion 3.0 which I highly recommend.

So, what do I do when kids fall short of the expectation? First, I give wait time or say, “I’m waiting for two more” if I have two students not tracking me. I don’t call them out by name, but their neighbors start using positive pressure to get their peers on task. If that doesn’t work, I go to proximity, standing closer to that student. I also use whisper prompts. While I am not perfect at it, I avoid calling out a student in front of the class. It damages the relationship and it turns the situation into a show of you versus a student. If it still isn’t fixing the behavior, I issue a consequence like lunch detention.

Do: Make Positive Calls Home Early and Often

When you start the school year if you’ve taught for at least a year (and maybe even before then), you might get a hunch that a student who is acting correctly now just might become a behavior problem later. Often, these are your energetic kids who crave attention. So…give it to them! Find something that they did well within the first day of two of school. Now this student knows you see them as a good student who makes their life better. Parents love a good call and often reward their scholars for it.

I’ve experienced students who get into trouble in other classes become star students in my class. I think it was in part due to early positive calls home. Not only does it make the kid’s and family’s day, it will your day too.

Make positive phone calls home

Building Better Relationships With Students

Building better relationships with students is achievable and not as difficult as you might think. Focus on a few key students a week and watch your classroom transform.