3 Ways to Build and Implement Successful Classroom Relationships

kindess social and emotional learning

February 12-18 is National Random Acts of Kindness week, so to kick it off today, here are some inexpensive and fun ideas from a teacher to spread kindness through your classrooms and schools–not only this week but throughout the year.

By Meredith Sanders

“A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.”

This is a quote I try to keep in mind daily. As a teacher, we have the potential to reach so many students on so many levels every day. Building rapport with some students comes easier than with others, but it is one of the most important things a teacher can do. Positive encouragement can change your day, your students’ day, the classroom environment and even the school’s atmosphere.

Here are a few ways that have helped me build these important relationships:

1. Consistently Build Relationships with Your Students. Each day, I greet my students as they enter my classroom with a smile, fist bump, hug or a personal greeting. I want to make sure each one of them knows that I care about them and that I am glad to see them. As they are preparing for class, I get to have a few personal minutes where they tell me about their ballgame from the night before, their hunting trip from the weekend or stories about their siblings.

During class, I encourage and praise positive behavior because it often counteracts negative behavior. Instead of bringing attention to the student who is not following directions, I can point out a student that is by saying, “I appreciate the way Mary is sitting quietly and working on her assignment.” This redirects the student who is not following directions that they should be on task without me having to tell them.

One thing that I’ve picked up on over the years, is that students love any sort of reward. After all, who doesn’t? As teachers, we appreciate and look forward to our “jeans days.” Even a little reward seems like a big reward when you have earned it. Stickers, candy, pencils, etc., can brighten a student’s day. This year I gave out small stickers to my students for their positive behavior. I would randomly give them stickers in line following the hallway expectations, when they were working hard, when they were helping others and for many other reasons. They wanted to see who got the most stickers by the end of the class period (Scratch ‘N Sniff stickers are a big deal to elementary students!).

In addition to rewards, student conferencing is vital to building relationships with your students so I conference with my students after they score a math assignment. This is how I can determine their strengths and weaknesses while we discuss what they missed and rework the math problems. Students who score high are usually my “teacher’s helper.” Peer tutoring is a wonderful tool, too. In the past, I have recognized students by letting them wear “smart beads” or press the “Easy” button from Staples. Students love to get recognized for their hard work and accomplishments.

2. Create a Bridge Between School and Home. Earlier this year, I sat down and wrote a short note to each of my 100 students making sure to name at least one positive characteristic I saw in them. Some of the students were so excited to get a positive note—or “Happy Note” as some students called it—that they took it home to show their parents. Several parents remarked that it was a very thoughtful gesture. After receiving the students’ and parents’ positive reaction, my “Happy Note Home” idea was born. I tallied up each student’s positive sticker total for the week and without them knowing, chose a student or two from each class to receive a “Happy Note Home.”

After the first month, I had mailed out around 30 handwritten cards to parents telling them positive characteristics I had encountered about their child. Students would rush into my room on Monday’s begging to know who got the “Happy Note Home.” I never told them who I sent the note to each week, just reminded them to tell their parents to keep checking their mail every week. In return, I received several beautiful cards from parents letting me know how much they appreciated my note. This created a wonderful stepping stone for future parent-teacher conferences.

3. Cultivate Community in the Classroom and at School. Students in my room have the option to sit where they choose as long as they choose a “successful seat.” After a few days of reminding them that they are there to focus and learn, not to socialize, I noticed the seating arrangement changed. Several students sat by students that they didn’t socialize with at recess or at lunch. They learned where they could be successful in my class. In turn, I noticed some of the “groups” changed at recess as well. My students were building relationships outside their normal group of friends.

We can all work together to help mold tomorrow’s future and create a positive learning environment. Remember those stickers from earlier? I carry stickers with me everywhere I go in the school. The school secretary will get a sticker for being ‘paws’itively awesome. The cafeteria employees get an “apple of my eye” sticker. The custodians will get a sticker for being a “rockSTAR.” Sometimes a simple sticker, a smile or a silly pun can brighten someone’s day. So grab a sticker and put on a smile. Make each day the BEST day!

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Meredith Sanders is a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Kosciusko School District in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Follow Kosciusko Upper Elementary at @KosyUpper.

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