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Cultivating Authentic Relationships with Students - Part Two

Updated: Aug 10, 2023


Starting the year strong with relationship building continues to be a goal for teachers, but the daily grind can distract us from this initial focus. When the middle of the year threatens to distance those relationships, it’s time to start implementing some more small gestures to show students that you care and that they matter. Kids thrive off of intrinsic motivation from people that they respect, and they spend vast amounts of time in their childhood in school.


Be a positive influence and a role model in their lives by continuing to cultivate authentic relationships. Sharing a bit of yourself with them humanizes you and allows them to see parallels between your life and theirs.


In the second and final part of this series, we’ll discuss small ways you can share snippets of your personality and the joys in your life to show them how to appreciate the small things in life. These tips come from comments by students who remember the teachers who’ve made the biggest impact in their lives.


Unleash the Weird

If you have an obsession or a collection or something that you love, share it! Sports fans, groupies, school-supply aficionados - we all have a place to share the quirks that make us unique. And you’ll find that when kids see these things, they’ll think of you and make a point to tell you about it. It removes you from the classroom and gives you humanity so they know it can be cool to have an outside interest that doesn’t match what everyone else thinks is cool.


Leverage Their Interests

If you see that they’re interested in something, be interested too. Kids love to talk about themselves, and it’s rare that they’ll find an adult who listens. Encourage kids to think-pair-share about their own interests, so that they can see the uniqueness in each other. Create a list of thought-provoking (even silly!) questions to encourage their creativity, such as a “Would you rather…” or a “Which animal would win if…”


Encourage Questions

Let them ask, “Why?” Many kids’ home lives are full of rules and automatic obeying. Let them question the things you ask of them, being sure to share with them the relevance of the knowledge you share. Encourage them to ask questions for understanding, or to pose questions in a Question Jar that you can explore as a class later. This will also open a window to show them how to seek information and knowledge, and to speak up for themselves.


Let Them Teach You

We have a lot to learn from our students, and they love to be the ones to teach us. This can be a fun addition to a project and encourage them to think outside the box. They can formulate their own plan of action for research if it’s a new topic or a plan for how to best share the knowledge they know if they’re already an “expert.” Start an “Expert Share” time of day when kids share something they’re an expert at already, from how to create a TikTok video to evolving a Pokemon to debugging a program. Ask them for their help, even if you already know the answer!


Promise to Be Your Best Self

Teach kids to recognize emotions, especially if it’s interfering with giving the best of themselves to the class. And this includes you! Kids and teens are intuitive and can tell if you’re bothered by something. Have them suggest a calming moment, a pause, or a deep breathing session if they can tell that you or someone else in the class needs it without calling out that person. We can all help keep each other’s mental and emotional health thriving.


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