Mr. C.’s Six Steps to Building Positive and Enduring Relationships with Your Elementary Students
1. Share your sense of humor. Kids, of every age, like to hear jokes, no matter how corny or cheesy. If they don’t laugh with you, then they’ll laugh at you. One of my favorites is: “Do you know what is Barbie’s favorite state?”
If you take yourself too seriously, they won’t take your relationship with them serious enough.
2. Be empathetic. Kids go through hardships of all sizes and magnitudes, so I always strive to show them that I care and can relate to them in one form or another. Even when I don’t necessarily agree with the net result of what the student is going through (I’m sensing an, “I’m too tired” reason for not working here), I still try to acknowledge their struggle and show empathy (“I’m sorry you’re tired. I know that is hard to deal with when you’re at school. I get tired a lot, too, but I’m still here giving you my best. All I ask for is your best.”)
3. Show genuine curiosity and excitement about their interests. Share with them the interests you have, and how your interests compare or contrast, but that they’re both interests you enjoy. For example, one year, I had a student who was a boxer. He was only nine years old, but he was part of a boxing club where they would actually have boxing bouts and tournaments. Honestly, I did not care for boxing at that time, but because it meant so much to him, and I wanted to develop that relationship, I went to watch a boxing match he had. Needless to say, he was pretty happy about that.
4. Demonstrate forgiveness. Every relationship is tested at one point or another, but the act of forgiveness can be a sturdy building block in showing the student how invested you are in them and your relationship with them. Never shy away from telling a student, no matter how frustrated you are with them, “I forgive you; let’s clean the slate for today and continue on with our work.” Kids, like adults, make mistakes all the time, but a forgiving heart is a full and steady heart.
5. Don’t ever be afraid or too prideful to apologize. Teachers make mistakes, too, and we need forgiveness as much as our students do. One time, during a kindergarten group, I lost my patience, and I ended up raising my voice with the students. Because of this, almost all of them erupted in tears. Of course, I immediately felt horrible! I calmed them down, and I apologized for raising my voice at them, and then I did number 6.
6. Always tell your students that you love them, even during the difficult times, because that is probably when they need to hear it the most. Saying, “I love you” to them is so vital for a positive and impactful relationship, and kids need to hear that the person they spend so much time with doing the above 1-5 with., cares and loves them unconditionally. I think it is a beautiful thing to express affection to your students, and there is no better way than dropping “L-bombs” on a regular basis. Trust me, those students will always remember how you feel about them, and this will carry over in a plethora of ways, such as student achievement and post-school successes. Students that know you love them will work their hardest when you tell them that high stakes testing is important to show their growth and their achievement. Your students will also remember your feelings for them when down the road when they are set to celebrate their successes. Why, just two days ago, I was invited to a high school graduation party for a student I had many years ago that I nicknamed, “Marvelous” This kid has experienced incredible challenges during her short life, but has triumphed past these obstacles to achieve success.
Looking forward to your graduation, “Marvelous”!
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