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Most teachers go into teaching at least partially because they like working with young people. These relationships are the fun part!
Hopefully this is YOU, because the second pillar you need to master in order to have a well-managed classroom is Building Relationships.
To recap from my classroom management series so far, the 3 pillars you need to build to maintain a stress-free classroom are:
- Creating and implementing systems
- Building Relationships
- Reacting in the moment
In the last blog post, I gave you tips to get you started with Creating and Implementing Systems, and much of the work that needs to be done before the school year is involved with systems.
But although systems are totally crucial….they’re not as naturally rewarding as building relationships. This is one of the fun parts of teaching!
Student-teacher relationships will develop naturally as the year rolls on, but there will always be some students that will gravitate towards you more than others. These are the easy kids to build relationships with.
But for a truly well-managed classroom, we need to put forth some extra effort to get to know every student. This can definitely happen over time, but it’s worth your effort to deliberately work to speed this up.
Keep reading for 4 Tips for Building Relationships in the MS and HS classroom!
- Learn names quickly, and then use their names all the time. Ask students how to pronounce their names and practice it for them. If you don’t think you’ll remember, write it down phonetically. Some easy ways to remember names include creating introduction Flipgrids, studying roster photos (if you have access to these), or keeping them in a seating plan and having them use name tags for the first little while.
- In the first few weeks, make a point of interacting with each student in some way. It might be a quick “Hey Tyra, I like your shoes!”, a “You did a great job today, Amani!”, or “What other classes do you have right now, Jose? Which one is your favorite?”. It’s so small, but the first step towards a positive relationship is a student feeling seen and acknowledged.
- Embrace class inside jokes that develop. They should never be at the expense of anyone (other than yourself), but these jokes can be a great way to make the class feel bonded. I’ve had classes connect over a love for Hank Green, the way a narrator spoke dramatically in a movie, or that I once accidentally selected a picture of a taxidermied tiger for a lesson example rather than a real one! So silly, but so fun.
- I’ve had a lot of first days of school, and once I learned this activity I never looked back. It’s basically a puzzle that kids won’t be able to solve right away. They work together in groups and you have to interact with them to give them information along the way. Your observations during this activity will reveal a lot about the students individually as well as the overall class dynamics:
- Who speaks up the most?
- Who is quiet?
- Who has no patience?
- Who tries to talk to other groups for hints?
- Who suggests adjusting the number of dice?
- Who is frustrated?
- Who is afraid of making mistakes?
It gives you a lot of insight, plus you’re starting with something that gets them engaged and excited. AND you’re normalizing things like making mistakes/not knowing everything on the first day – this is a major relief for kids!
But remember, relationships in the classroom need to be built and then maintained. And with tight systems in place, there will more time throughout the year to engage and nurture those relationships and enjoy a positive space for the whole group.
If you want to learn more about:
- Ideal activities to do on the first day…
- Simple, tangible strategies to connect with all kids (even quiet ones!)…
- Ways to nurture relationships while also improving academics…
You’ll find this and more in Module 3: Building Relationships of my course What You Wish You Learned in Teachers College: Classroom Management.
Interested in other Back-to-School activities
Classroom Management Series #3: Tips for Reacting in the Moment
Classroom Management Series #1: Tips for Creating Systems
The #1 Thing Teachers Wish They Learned in Teachers College
How to Guarantee that Your Students Will Remember What They Learn
The Proven Blueprint to Using Movies in the Science Classroom
Using YouTube for a Low-Prep Bellringer
My Favorite Way to Start the Science School Year