When you think of that one teacher who made the biggest impact on your life, I’m sure you are thinking about someone who took precious teaching time to build a relationship with you. Someone who made you feel special. Someone who saw you.
My most influential teacher was my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Tom Frazier. Up until that point, I had been dismissed, scolded, and sent to the principal’s office more times than I could count. Until I was placed in Mr. Frazier’s class. He undoubtedly must have heard of the quirky, distracted girl coming to his class, yet he chose to see someone else. He chose to see the potential for greatness rather than focus on issues in the classroom.
What makes these teachers so remarkable is their ability to prioritize relationship building.
The impact is particularly strong on students living in poverty, who, when given both instructional and emotional support, perform just as well as their higher-income peers (Hamre & Pianta, 2005).
For teachers to truly make an impact on their students, teachers need to go beyond knowing their students names, their test scores, or holding parent-teacher conferences. It means intentionally stopping by a student’s desk to ask about last night’s game, double checking with a student on how her mom’s new baby is doing, or responding “The force is strong with this one!” when a Star Wars loving student answers a question in front of the class.
Need some ideas on how to create relationship-building opportunities with your students? Check out these suggestions from Poor Students, Rich Teaching by Eric Jensen.
- Share an everyday problem with your students. Let them know that you struggle too and model the problem solving process and vulnerability by asking them for suggestions on working towards a solution.
- Share your progress on a goal with your students. Allow them to hold you accountable for reaching that goal.
- Plan collaborative activities to create opportunities for students to interact with you and each other.
- Use Quick Connect Tools such as One and Done. “In the first thirty days of school, do one favor, make one connection, or show empathy that is so powerful that an individual or whole class remembers it.”
- Connect with students’ home lives by attending an event after school that interests your students or has significant meaning to them such as a baptism or a funeral.
It’s never too late to start building relationships with your students. You just have to be willing to do whatever it takes to be the type of teacher they will remember in their future.