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Aug 06

Relationship Building

Posted by Pamela Jones in Fair Is Not Equal on Aug 06, 2012

One of the Cornerstones of Effective Behavioral Support


Little of substance can happen in the classroom without the benefit of building relationships with your students. If you ascribe to the range of psychodynamic theories of behavioral intervention, you value the role that trust and caring play in establishing bonds with your students. We would do well to remember that children who struggle to regulate their emotions and behaviors often have significant difficulty forming relationships with adults and other children, making this issue even more important. Experience has shown that students who trust that their teachers care about their well being--both academic and non-academic--are more likely to do the work necessary to grow over the course of the year. 

Building relationships can and should start at the beginning of the school year and it is at this time that you can lay a solid foundation for the work that is to come!  Below are some starter ideas for how to begin to build relationships with your students come September:

  • Welcome Letters: Providing your students with a letter welcoming them to the classroom and school year (in question) a wonderful way to open the door of communication between the two of you. A letter (or card) says that you care about them not only as your students but as people with whom you'll share in the year-long journey of learning. One year, I sent my 5th grade students specially-made cards before they arrived and these cards left an indelible impression on them, so much so that they mentioned them throughout the year and held onto them!  These letters can set the tone for how you want to introduce yourself and your expectations for the year. 
  • Lunch with the Teacher: Students of all ages covet the chance to "lunch" with the teacher (even if they act as if they don't). Taking the time to sit down with each of your students, even if you decide to do this in pairs or trios, gives you the chance to talk and get to know them in a less structured and a more relaxed atmosphere. We recommend doing this at different points throughout the year, as there's just no substitute to having real and honest conversations with your kids!
  • The Dialogue Journal: An author by the name of Regan extols the virtues of something he calls the Dialogue Journal. This journal provides you and your students with a way of communicating that is low-pressure and consistent.  For students for whom the written word is a challenge, they can communicate in pictures and words or just pictures; the point, ultimately, is to have a vehicle through which your thoughts are documented and conveyed. Starting this practice at the beginning of the year can be a good way to open the door to building a strong relationship with your students.  Just remember--if you start it, and it's working well, it's important to keep it up!  Consistency is key. 
  • Learning Styles & Interest Inventories: The more you know about your students, the better able you'll be to not only communicate with them but to tailor lessons and unit plans that match their strengths, areas of challenge, and likes. One way to do this is to administer learning styles and interest inventories at the beginning of the year with your students. Here is a link to a site that can get you started on the learning styles inventory journey!

What are some things that you have done to build relationships with your students? Do you have any specific beginning-of-the-year ideas? Please share! 

tagged relationship-building, relationships
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