While successful teachers have different styles and personalities, they all have one thing in common: high-quality teacher-student relationships. Today, we have a wealth of information about teaching and learning. You can find entire books addressing specific classroom concerns. In the tips below, I’ll discuss the key elements that helped me foster high-quality relationships with my students.
- Forge caring relationships through compassionate interactions. Show your students you care about each of them. As they enter classroom, make eye contact and greet them. Also, greet the whole class before you begin the first lesson each day. Model the behaviors you’d like them to learn, be courteous, and be sure to say please and thank you. Don’t forget to smile. Smile all the time, but exhibit the assertiveness required of the class leader. Treat students with respect and require them to respect one another. Learn your students’ names quickly. Take a personal interest in your students, learn their interests, and attend extracurricular events when possible. Meet their parents and communicate with them. Share your passion for education by telling students about your decision to become a teacher, your inspiration, and your mission.
- Create positive expectations that promote growth. Work with students to set academic and behavioral goals. Take the time to hold individual conferences with each student; you can do this while the class is engaged in an activity. Evaluate your students’ strengths and weaknesses, share that information with them, and convey your belief in their ability to improve. Encourage students to set goals, records those goals, and re-evaluate progress throughout the year. The bravest teachers share professional goals with the class and welcome feedback on their progress from their students.
- Establish a work-oriented environment. Present students with an interesting and challenging curriculum. Share the learning objectives with students so they don’t mistake it for busy work. Reach more students and keep the content interesting by varying your teaching methods. Classroom walls should be warm, interesting, and academic. Display posters that are relevant to the content you are teaching. Don’t forget to reference posters as you teach and switch them out occasionally. Allocate shelf and wall space for student work. Make materials (pencils, calculators, markers, scissors, etc.) available to students. Store, at minimum, several class sets of activities of varying duration in your cabinet. Be prepared for technical challenges, lessons that flop or simply end too soon, and other unimaginable circumstances.
- Set clear procedures, routines, and boundaries. Students perform better in a predictable environment. Familiarize students with start-of-class procedures so they may self-start. To maximize efficiency, display information such as agendas, learning objectives, and assignments before students enter the classroom. Talk to your students about ways to communicate needs or movement in the classroom. Seat arrangements should be set according to the task at hand. Use seating assignments to help students maintain focus, manage their own behavior, and work with students of different abilities.
- Communicate acceptable behaviors. Discuss behaviors that promote learning and those that do not. Then have students consider the types of interactions they want to have. Agree on a short list and post it. Inevitably, some student will not hold up to the agreement. Behavioral maturity and emotional regulation are skills that students can develop. But behavioral and emotional issues can be dicey to cope with. Ideally, you would have enough information to determine which skill the student needs and how to develop that skill. Many times, however, you’ll need a more immediate solution. Rewards for positive behaviors and punishments for negative behaviors are immediate and effective methods to gain temporary compliance. Neither offers opportunities for student reflection on how their behavior affects others or on how to become a more empathic person. When you choose these options, remember to be just and do your best to preserve the teacher-student relationship. Refrain from warnings or threats: if a student breaks a rule, a consequence follows. Young people are particularly passionate about fairness and justice. It is also important to admit when you are wrong, especially when handling interpersonal matters. Apologize if you make a mistake.
- Practice self-care regularly. Teachers help students enhance the quality of their lives. While it is a rewarding profession, it may also feel draining at times. Taking care of yourself is essential to maintaining the energy and frame of mind necessary to meet classroom demands. Don’t ignore those outside activities that you enjoy, spend some time alone, and surround with people who make you happy. Most importantly, forgive yourself for your mistakes. Unfortunately, there will be difficult moments. When those days come, tap into the power of the “halo effect” by dressing your best and smiling. Your students and colleagues will unconsciously make positive assumptions. They could even compliment you, which should put a smile on your face and lift up your mood.