The 3 Stages of Building Relationships with Students
Building relationships with our students something we are very intentional about at the beginning of the school year. However, we know that this is a yearlong process. It is a process that has three stages: basic information, academic, and the Champion stage.
At the beginning of the school year, we start building relationships with our students through icebreakers, reading interest surveys, parent homework assignments, and in-class activities. Some of these in-class activities are also good for building classroom community. Examples, I have used are:
Ths is the first stage of relationship building, the basic information gathering stage. After the first few days of school, we move into the second stage of relationship building the academic level. We initially administer and grade benchmark assessments to gather data on their reading levels, writing skills, and math skills. My favorite of these assessments were the benchmark running records because I actually talked to the students. This is our first glance into their deeper soul. Our first glance at what motivates and engages them. Conversations are so vital to continuing to nurture the academic relationship. I know that small group instruction is challenging with class sizes above 25 students, but it is certainly important. I found that even if I didn't talk to a student in a small group every day in reading, I could at least converse with them in math and/or writing. And if all else failed, I would put them at the front of the line to talk with them as we walked to specials class. (Yes, I was never a fan of the "silent hallways rule.")
Optimal relationship building happens with students during this small group instruction time, as long as the students talk. Now, I know there are some students that just don't talk! And well, they do eventually, but this most definitely means that you need to REALLY limit your talk and LISTEN. I have a very raw document to promote small group discussion. It defines expectations for talking and has some sentence prompts students can use to get them talking.
You can access the document through this link, it is called, "Conversar para profundizar comprension." The academic goal of this tool is to help students understand what they are reading, but the spillover effect of the tool is to increase academic relationships among students and you, the teacher.
Many, many academic conversations will hopefully lead you to the third and ultimate stage of student-teacher relationships. This stage is called the Champion Level. It is named after the TedTalk by Rita Pierson, "Every Kid Needs a Champion". It is that magical level of learning where students are not afraid to take risks, not afraid to think, and who had a champion - an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be. It's the level where you the teacher understand what that child needs. You know that the child, that failed an assignment because they only had 2 correct answers out of 20, will respond best to a +2 :) rather than a -18 :( (as Rita Pierson shares in her talk). It is that level of knowing a child that we as teachers make the greatest impact on student learning. Now we don't get there over night nor do we get there in the first weeks of school, but our goal is to get there by winter. And I'm sure you will!
These are just some thoughts on building relationships with students. How do you see relationships unfold in your classroom?