How To Relate Better To Your Students

Some of the toughest students to reach have built the tallest emotional walls. As an educator, you must figure out how to dismantle this wall, or at least discover a door. The only way to do this is to form a relationship. In this post, I’ll show you how.

via Flickr Creative Commons,

via Flickr Creative Commons,

First, why should you forge better relationships with your students? After all, you’re the boss….right?

You are are an educator, which classifies you as a professional communicator. Communication not only requires a mouth, but a set of ears. True communication will require a WILLING and RECEPTIVE listener. Permission must be given, before what you’re saying will make any impact. But to be honest, there are benefits for you too.

  1. It makes work more fun. The classroom becomes more friendly. Teachers and students move from a “have to” mentality to a “want to” mentality.
  2. It gives you more energy. People that you don’t like drain you. But people that you do like energize you. It may require some energy on your part at first, but before you know it, excitement will launch you into a new dimension.
  3. Communication moves from vertical to horizontal. You already have position, and everyone will agree that the student must allow you to speak. But if you want true learning to happen, listen to the feedback you gather from your students. They have some amazing and creative ideas.

So how do you do it? These kids are much younger and seem to have foreign or even alien ideas. How in the world do you forge strong relationships with them? It’s easier than you think.

  1. Look into the future. Quit viewing Johnny as he is, and begin viewing him as he will be. He needs you to believe in him; to call greatness out of him. One of the fastest ways to gain an ally, is to believe in the person.
  2. Move from rules to relationships. I learned this during my years as an Assistant Principal. I gained a reputation for being able to discipline students with a smile (even if it was a suspension). I established a relationship. The student was a person, not a rebel or a rule-breaker. Once the student understood that I cared about him/her as a person, he/she was understanding about the discipline handed down. Every student has value and it’s your job that they know you see it.
  3. Be honest about your faults. If you mess up, admit it. Make a joke about yourself once in a while. Let them see that you are human too. When they empathize with you, they can listen to you.

As I write this, school is about to begin. But you can begin building relationships any time. Your students need to know you care. They need to see that giving respect is a sign of a mature person. You can take the lead and be their example. If you’re worried it will make you look weak, it won’t. It will make you look humble and gracious and win you the right to speak to both their heart and mind.

QUESTION: What do you do that helps build relationships with the students you lead?

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