Make it a practice to send out a set number of postcards (or even emails) a week celebrating students that made positive contributions to class.
TIP: Be sure to record your mailings in a communication log.
Give a job that requires trust and responsibility to students that might be a bit more challenging. By doing so and explaining to them why you think they is the right one for the job, you’ll instill a sense of trust.
TIP: Many students benefit from the feeling that you see them as responsible.
One of the most effective ways to compliment a student is to do it when they are not there. For instance, when a student is absent or leaves the room, make a comment about something you really like about them. Other students in the room will totally tell the student what you said later in the day, and it models genuine love for your students in front of the rest of the class.
On day one of a new school year, you will most likely get a sense of who might be a more challenging student in your classroom. So, if that more difficult student had a pretty good day, call home that night. Note specific things they did right in your classroom. By establishing positive contact right away, you make a bit of a deposit in the child’s “bank account.” Then, if something goes wrong on another day, you’ve already established a positive relationship.
Avoid embarrassing or making an example of a student at all costs.
Be positive – always.
Instead of “Bob get your packet out,” try complimenting the student next to Bob, “George, thanks for getting your packet out.” Highlight what you want to happen instead of embarrassing a student.
Make a connection with your most challenging students. Find a way to genuinely compliment them in your class each day. Write kind notes on their paper. Make an effort to reach out to their parents with positive news (it’s like a bank deposit – fill the bank with as much good news as possible so that when you have to make a withdrawal your contact will be primarily positive). Be excited to see the student each school day.
TIP: Even if you have to fake it, loving the hardest kid to love is so important.
Sometimes you’ll make a wrong call. Sometimes you’ll overreact. Sometimes you’ll make a kid sad. When you make a mistake, say you’re sorry – publicly – in front of the whole class. Explain what happened, what you did wrong, how you’ll make amends (with an action), and how you’ll try to improve in the future. If this is what we expect from our students when they make mistakes, then it makes sense to model it for everyone to see. Students don’t want you to be perfect. They want you to be consistent, fair, and when you’re not those things, they’d love to hear you say sorry.
Say a friendly hello and create a quick connection with students every day by standing at your door. This little gesture reminds them that you are there for them. It shows them that you are excited and engaged as well.
TIP: Say goodbye to each of them, by name, at the end of each day, too.
Some teachers successfully give nicknames to students. However, many students resent the nicknames that teachers give them. While they may accept it (because what else can they do?), many times the nickname embarrasses them or highlights something different about them. As you know, being different is often not a good feeling as a kid. That’s why it’s important to ask what a student would like to be called and stick with it.
It’s human nature to connect with some people more than others. That’s true with students as well. However, it’s important to never pick favorites! If you’re the basketball coach don’t just engage with your athletes. If you tend to like the girls in the classroom more than the boys, don’t show favoritism. Kids struggle with teachers that play favorites. As humans, there will be students we just like more. Make a concerted effort to highlight and connect with those students that you’re not necessarily drawn too.
One of the easiest ways to positively connect with students is by being consistent and fair. Students want to feel safe in their classrooms. They want to know that you have systems in place to help all students be successful. Stay consistent in your classroom management so that students can thrive in your loving, fun, and supportive classroom.
Reflect on your own school experience growing up. Who was your favorite teacher? Why? (Does it have something to do with how that teacher made you feel?)
TIP: Emulate your favorite teacher in your own classroom.
Build connections with your students as they build connections with their peers. Intentionally plan activities that encourage students to get to know their classmates. While activities like positive pennant posters and team building games may seem to take away from instruction, they are actually powerful tools for creating a positive learning environment.
Have you ever heard that the easiest way to get children to listen is to whisper your message within earshot of someone else? The same principle applies to students. They love to eavesdrop. So, why not brag about individual students to a colleague within earshot of them? Spreading the word about the great things kids are doing (in a whisper) is super powerful!
Create homework and classwork with students’ names in the assignments. Make sure their names are associated with positive things and connected to activities and hobbies they care about.
TIP: Personalizing assignments is not hard to do, but it helps students connect with you and their learning.
Thanks so much for checking out these ideas. I hope you've found at least one new way to connect with students.