I can’t have any more children. The ability to birth children was taken from me when doctors had to extract my womb from my body. The one miraculous baby girl that the Lord gave me is the only biological child I will have.
My Sweet Girl: Photo by Jacque Miller Photography
Guest Post by Jacqueline from For the Love of the Children
Five Ways to Build Stronger Relationships with Students
This is one of the first things I tell my students, as it is a beginning step in building relationships with them. Building relationships is the key to a successful classroom environment that promotes academic success.
Teachers who work in Title 1 districts have unique struggles. Many students are performing below grade level, and there are more important things on their minds than learning language skills and mastering multiplication facts. Some students are trying to become proficient English speakers while still being expected to master the same standards as their peers for whom English is the primary language. Others must deal with unimaginable situations at home that are more atrocious than many adults will ever face. Additionally, there are students who do not always know and/or care to follow the hidden “rules” of schools.
Despite these challenges, teachers in Title 1 districts are expected to see the same amount of growth with their students as those who teach in more affluent neighborhoods. School grades do not take poverty levels into account when calculating the “effectiveness” of an educator, school, or district. All students are measured using the same stick, despite the baggage they bring to school each day. Therefore, since many students in high poverty areas are generally relationship driven, it is imperative that educators take time to foster relationships in order to experience success with their students.
1. Share stories from your life:
I have found that one of the best ways to build better relationships with my students is by being vulnerable and opening myself up so that they see who I am outside of being their teacher. They soak up stories of adventures involving my husband, daughter, and me. The personal information I share helps them see me as a caring person who trusts them enough to let them into the private parts of my life. This opens the doors of communication, and before long, (and at the appropriate times), students are sharing personal stories from their lives.
2. Take an interest in your students’ lives.
We can show that we care about our students by being interested in the things that interest them. My colleague and friend, Mindy Sarlea, tries to go to every home athletic event of her current and former students. If they invite her to a gathering outside of school, she moves heaven and earth to try and get there. I admire that dedication! My schedule prevents me from making it to many extracurricular events, so I show an interest in their lives by asking about the things they enjoy. My kiddos love explaining Snap Chat to me (does this make me sound old?) or showing me the latest game on the computer. We laugh together when I can’t master a skill or level that they have conquered, and they take great pride in teaching the teacher! This type of interaction speaks volumes to the students. It sends the unspoken message that they matter. What’s important to them is important to me.
3. Acknowledge your students’ efforts.
No child wants to fail. Humans, by nature, want to be recognized for putting forth their best effort. I think about how good it feels to receive affirmation from my administrators. It tells me that they see me and appreciate what I do. The same is true of our students. They want to know that we notice them and see that they are trying their best. Go ahead and acknowledge them with a pat on the back or a fist bump. Place an encouraging hand on a shoulder (if the child is ok with this type of positive touch). Pass along a nice note written on a post-it. Try these positive stickers and put these on their papers. (I find my students, both male and female, peeling off the stickers and putting them on their hands, cheeks, clothes or on a special notebook.) These small gestures make a world of difference.
4. Respect your students.
Some adults feel that respect must be earned. I contend that people respect those who respect them. We must understand where our students come from and the battles they face. Yes, we should always be firm with our expectations just like we would with our own children, but it is imperative to always treat our students with respect. This goes a long way in creating a positive classroom environment in which learning can take place.
5. Start each day with a smile.
And smile a lot throughout the day. Our students are experts at reading our body language. They can tell when we are genuinely happy to be at school and when we see it (and/or them) as a burden. They may not realize it, but this weighs on their young hearts and is a factor in them shutting down. A positive attitude will be rewarded with students who WANT to come to our class and put forth their best effort.
Building relationships with students is the key to a successful year. Within the first week of school, my kids know that I may not be able to have any more biological children, but I am thrilled to have 100+ new children each school year. My sharing this with them opens the doors of communication, and the relationship building begins!
Are you looking for a way to create a more positive classroom environment? Try this Secret Student Program, appropriate for ALL grade levels. You will be amazed at how this one thing will help build relationships with students. This will certainly translate into improved behavior in the classroom. Read more about it here.
~Jacqueline Miller, For the Love of the Children
About: Jacqueline Miller is a middle school reading teacher in Hammond, IN. Jacque has been teaching reading for twelve years. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Master’s degree in Elementary Education, and a middle school English endorsement. Jacque has been recognized as an Outstanding Educator in Hammond and consistently receives top marks in her evaluations because of the work she does with her middle school students.
In addition to teaching, Jacque enjoys being a professional photographer. She takes great pleasure in combining her passion of photography with her love for teaching. Jacque uses photography as a tool to connect with her students.
Jacque has been married to Ben Miller for 14 years and is the mother of a precocious three year old, a true miracle child and gift from God.