Do you have one student in your class you can’t seem to connect with? Check out these strategies with ideas for how to build a meaningful relationship with them to work together. The truth is, building a relationship with this student may be the difference between a successful year for them or a year of struggle.
Why Should We Focus on Building a Relationship?
Relationships are the root of everything in life. This is especially true in the classroom. Before we can do anything else in the classroom we must establish it as a safe and happy place for students to be. In order to do this, there must be an underlying level of trust between the teacher and students.
This becomes increasingly difficult when a student comes to us from a background of trauma. It also makes it all the more important to focus on building a relationship from day one.
Some students are ready to take on a relationship with their teacher from the moment they meet them, and this can be a point of joy. Other students require you to work for their trust, which only makes it that much sweeter when you achieve it.
With this being said, there are specific ways to go about earning a student’s trust and building a relationship with them. Each student is a unique individual though, and there is no one size fits all way of building trust. Follow the student’s lead, and allow them to take control of the process while gently guiding them.
Relationship Building Strategies
Focus on Common Ground
Find something your student is interested in and do your research. This might mean spending a bit of time Googling what a new fad is all about or asking your student questions about what they are into. I have found the best way to achieve this is to start by asking questions, then doing a little research so I have something to bring to the table during the next conversation.
If the student is hesitant to talk with you one on one invite other students into the conversation as well but be sure to maintain focus on the student you are working to improve your relationship with.
Find the Positive
For some students, a school is a safe place where they feel welcome and loved. For others, their feelings are not so positive. This may be because of past experiences or a pervasive attitude about education from the family. Regardless of why a classroom isn’t a positive space for them, it is our job to show them all the good it can hold.
By finding the positive in the classroom and the student you show them they can be successful, feel safe, and enjoy school as well. Many students have been conditioned to think school is something they have to do, but by showing them it is something they GET to do each day and how excited you are to have them there, you can slowly shift their point of view.
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
Humor and comedy can be one of the best ways to make a connection with a student that is resistant to building a relationship. The key though is to keep it light and base the humor on situations, but not them. You never want to make a joke about a student you don’t have a strong relationship with, and even if you do, I would caution against it.
Stick to corny jokes. You will get a ton of eye rolls, but with each eye roll, your connection with the student will grow a little stronger, even if they find you slightly ridiculous. Once you find a type of humor a student enjoys you can expand upon it.
Work on Social and Emotional Skills
Many students view school as a foreign land. At home, they know what is expected of them and are able to feel they fit in, but at school the game-plan changes.
You can build a relationship with students by helping them to learn the lay of the land. By explicitly teaching students the expectations for the classroom along with the why, you help them to feel more confident in the space.
Additionally, by including your students in the creation of classroom expectations and holding one another accountable students will take more ownership of the classroom and therefore feel a sense of belonging.
Why It Is All Worth It
At the end of the day, it is usually the students that resist building a relationship with their teacher or peers the most who are crying out for love.
As a teacher, it is our responsibility to make sure each and every student feels loved, cared for, and safe in the classroom. It is the ultimate responsibility.
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