[The following article was initially published by Teacher Created Materials on 08/30/21. The content is used with permission from Teacher Created Materials.]
Most educators, and perhaps even most people, can easily remember their favorite teacher. It may have been someone during your elementary, middle, or high school years that made an impact on you in some way. Our best teachers, the ones who changed our lives, all have something in common: they built a relationship with us. We trusted them. We knew they cared about us because they showed it in a variety of ways.
When asked what matters most to people in this world, one common answer is family and friends. People matter. Our relationships with those people are treasures that we highly value, perhaps more than just about anything else. During the pandemic, many of us faced isolation as we avoided gathering in groups; we stayed home much of the time, schools moved to virtual and remote learning, and we did not have the opportunity to see family and friends much, if at all. Many of us tragically lost people we deeply cared about.
As we have begun to be able to meet in person again, and as schools are reopening, we realize how happy we are to be around people. The isolation and lack of social contact during the pandemic was an epiphany for many: our relationships are some of the most important things in our lives. This is true for adults and youth alike. We need each other. Humans are social beings, and learning is a social process.
It is imperative, then, that now, more than ever, we intently focus on building and fostering positive relationships with our students and among our students. While every teacher knows the importance of building strong relationships in the classroom, we have a renewed sense of urgency to not only develop these relationships, but also to teach our students about how to build, develop, and foster relationships.
While there are many ways to build relationships in the classroom, here are five tried and true strategies that can be utilized. These strategies, among others, are highlighted in Effective Strategies for Integrating Social-Emotional Learning in Your Classroom.
There have been several viral videos that show creative ways teachers greet their students each day. At the core, daily greetings in which you at a minimum make eye contact, smile, say hello, and say each student ’s name shows them that you see them and acknowledge they are here. As appropriate, add in a physical gesture such as a wave, high five, fist bump, handshake, hug, salute, or other gesture.
Greetings can be incorporated when students greet each other as well. For example, when students are meeting in a small group or partner activity, have them incorporate in a simple greeting by saying something like “Hi _____ (person ’s name)” and potentially using another formal or informal aspect of greetings such as “It ’s nice to see you/work with you” or “How ’s it going?” This allows students to practice both informal and formal greetings and builds deeper connections and relationships as students get to know each other.
2. Daily Check-Ins
Checking in with your students daily, and having students check in with each other, builds self-awareness and social awareness, while also fostering relationships and empathy. There are many, many ways to check in with students: from simply asking them how they are feeling, to doing an emoji check-in (where they show how they are feeling with an emoji), a weather report, or using an emotions wheel to pinpoint specific and precise vocabulary to name our feelings.
3. Follow-Up and Feedback
For the learning process to occur, we need feedback. When we provide both positive and corrective feedback to students with a smile and with a friendly voice, it shows them that we care about them and their learning and their progress. Following up on students after a check in, either the same day or shortly afterwards, shows students that we care about their well-being as well.
4. Peer Interactions and Group Work
Building varied peer interactions among students serves several purposes. As mentioned learning is a social endeavor, and often students need to process information with a peer. These interactions also help to build relationships as students discuss content and work together on tasks. Frequent opportunities to interact, through quick questioning, as well as through more extended activities, allows students to get to know each other better. Strategies such as icebreakers, Find Someone Who, and Task Teams all help to get students interacting, getting to know each other, and deepening relationships.
5. Appreciations and Shout Outs
Everyone likes to hear when they are appreciated. Providing an opportunity for students to appreciate their classmates and for the teacher to show appreciation to their students gives us the opportunity to both express gratitude and to hear directly from others how our actions impact others in a positive way. As we share our appreciations and hear the appreciations of others, we make connections to people.
As the teacher, make a note as to who is sharing appreciations and who is being appreciated during these times. Make a point to look for opportunities to appreciate students that are not getting as many acknowledgments and shout-outs from their peers. Consider setting aside a time each week, such as on Thankful Thursdays, to have students share aloud their appreciations for a few minutes. Alternatively, create a gratitude wall where students can write their appreciation and post it for others to see.
These simple yet effective strategies go a long way in continuing to build, develop and foster relationships with and among students. Relationships skills are one of the key aspects of integrating social-emotional learning in your classroom; one that you are likely already doing, and may be able to expand upon and deepen.
For more information and resources, including a webinar with Erick Hermann, please visit Teacher Created Materials to sign up.
While you're at it, these titles from Teacher Created Materials might be useful to you:
Healthy Habits, Healthy You by Lisa Greathouse
What can you do to stay healthy and safe? Learn about healthy habits such getting the right amount of sleep, brushing your teeth, and wearing your seatbelt. Discover what it takes to be a “healthy you.”
Remember Who You Are by Sarah Kartchner Clark
This story about self discovery follows a young girl named Allison who is struggling to discover who she is and the meaning of her life. Find out how she learns to have faith in herself through the process of writing her autobiography and with the help of her family and friends.
A Teacher and A Friend by Cathy Mackey Davis
This story is based on the true story of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan. Helen and Annie develop a special friendship as they learn and grow together and teach one another about the world. The language arts connection is related to studying biographies. This story can be used to introduce any biography.
Find Your Sport by Lisa Greathouse
Being active helps you stay healthy. And playing a sport is a great way to keep your body moving. Discover sports you can play on your own or as a team. Learn the value of good sportsmanship. Learn how to prevent injuries and stay safe.
Many Helping Hands by Christine Dugan
This story shows the true meaning of friendship and helping others. When a family is confronted with difficult times, the neighbors and extended family are there to help in any way they can. The language arts connection is making predictions.
For more titles, see the Teacher Created Materials section of the Tales2go library.