Why Relationships Matter
The single most foundational element of social emotional learning is having strong relationships. In fact, relationships are the basis to all learning. Positive relationships help learners feel safe, respected, and connected. Further, by understanding learners at a deeper level, teachers can help students recognize strengths, work through challenges, identify goals, help through problems, and help develop a love of learning.
Make Sure Your Eyes Light Up
All kids deserve to feel loved. Take time to be reflective about how you react when you first see each of your learners. Do your eyes light up? Do you smile? Do you greet them immediately by name or give him a wave? Our very first interactions for the day help set the stage for positive relationships along the way. Every kid deserves someone whose eyes light up when they first see them. Sometimes, that person needs to be you.
Mentors, Not Friends
When building relationships with kids and teens, as educators, we are mentors, not friends. It’s extremely important to set boundaries and stick with expectations. Not only does this actually help to build strong relationships with learners in the long run, but it is something they need for their physical, emotional, and mental health. Educators can be friendly with students without being “friends.”
Relationships as a Long-Term Approach
It’s also worth noting that focusing on relationships isn’t just something educators should do as a back to school activity. While this is, of course, a great place to start, make relationship-building a long-term approach in your classroom for maximum potential and growth. We can learn about students in new ways every single day. That truly makes a difference for students and for educators.
Strategies for Building Relationships
With all of that said, there are so many different ways you can work on strengthening your relationship with each of your learners. From saying good morning to listening to their favorite music, the options are almost endless.
Here are 50+ ways you can work on building relationships with your kids and teens (or just grab the printable list instead!):
- Say good morning.
- Learn how to properly pronounce their name.
- Make sure your eyes light up when you see them.
- Look for the positive every day.
- Greet by name every day.
- Let them teach you about their interests and hobbies.
- Keep a “student tracker” to make note of important details to remember.
- Set meaningful and reasonable expectations.
- Be consistent and dependable.
- Set boundaries.
- Be true to your word.
- Embrace their individuality.
- Ask for updates on interests and hobbies.
- Use a respectful tone of voice.
- Learning interesting and unique facts about them.
- Show them pictures from your life.
- Go to sports or other after school activities.
- Discuss hopes and dreams.
- Learn their lingo.
- Listen to their ideas.
- Have them bring something in to share.
- Tell them you missed them after an absence.
- Conference weekly or monthly to work on goals.
- Offer choices when possible.
- Use interests in activities.
- Start fresh every day.
- Share about your own life.
- Be a little silly sometimes.
- Write positives notes about progress.
- Share inspirational moments from your life.
- Be flexible for individual needs.
- Teach skills they are lacking.
- Pick your battles for behavior challenges.
- Talk to them about non-school related topics.
- Apologize when you mess up.
- Tell funny stories from your own life.
- Play games with them.
- Celebrate their birthday.
- Give special responsibilities.
- Let them know you care about them.
- Laugh with them.
- Stay calm in times of stress.
- Give a high-five or fist bump when they do a great job.
- Remember little things about their lives.
- Just be there to listen.
- Be fun, but firm.
- Help them problem-solve through challenges.
- Admit when you don’t know something.
- Let them know you see their effort.
- Ask about favorite music (and listen to it).
- Don’t take tough days personally.
- Respect when they don’t feel like talking.
- Invite students to eat lunch with you.
- Model kind behavior.
- Allow for (and accept) mistakes.
- Positively communicate with families.
- Repair the relationship after a fallout.
- Give specific feedback and praise.
- Give constructive criticism when they need it.
- Have them help you with chores and small tasks.
- Remind kids of their strengths.
- Do special things for them (bringing in something that reminded you of them).
- Start a lunch group.
- Start an after school club.
- Celebrate successes and wins (even small ones).
- Say goodbye each day.
- Read with them.
- Listen more than you talk during conversations.
- Be a positive role model.
- Reflect on how to improve.
Want this as a FREE printable list to help remind you? Grab the free printable list in my store!