This toolkit was created in partnership with PERTS to support educators who are taking action in their classrooms.
The power of conversations
Getting to know your students is the first step in creating a caring and supportive classroom environment where students can learn. Research shows that even small things teachers do can help establish positive relationships with students. This practice will support you as you build caring relationships with students through welcoming routines, knowledge of their interests, and creating opportunities to share your own story.
Building relationships with students is essential for learning.
Research shows what we all know to be true: the relationship between teacher and students significantly impacts student engagement, behavior, and learning (Roorda, Koomen, Spilt, & Oort, 2011). Of course, creating these positive relationships is not always easy. The puzzle for many teachers is not figuring out how to care more about their students—you already care about your students a great deal. The challenge is figuring out how to genuinely and deeply connect with students so they feel cared for, and finding the time to build these connections.
Studies also suggest that students do best in a supportive, judgment-free environment. Low achieving students especially tend to withdraw at times to “protect” themselves rather than fail and risk embarrassment (Turner, Midgley, Meyer, & Kang, 2002; Ryan, Pintrich, & Midgley, 2001). Having a personal conversation with a student—especially one who is struggling—can be a great way to build a relationship that will help the student feel more secure and better about their prospects in school. When students feel they can relate to their teacher, their engagement—and subsequently achievement—increases (Connell & Wellbourn, 1991).
Inspired to try this practice?
The purpose of this practice is to establish your classroom as a safe space for students to be themselves, and to build deeper connections with them. The toolkit includes several sections: establishing welcoming routines, getting to know students’ interests, creating opportunities to share your own story, and tracking and learning from daily student interactions.
Using the resources in the toolkit, you’ll reflect on your own welcoming routine and look for opportunities to shake it up. You can also give students a short questionnaire to get to know their interests and use their responses to deepen your relationship with them, and with each other, in the classroom.
Here’s an overview of what you can expect and what you will need as you plan:
- Who should try it? This practice can be adapted for K-12 students.
- When you should you try it? This practice can be tried any time during the school year.
- What materials are needed? You will need:
- Copies of a student questionnaire (samples in the toolkit)
- Writing utensils for students and yourself
- How much time is needed? This practice will take 75 minutes to complete in full, though it is organized into three distinct parts that can be done at different times.
If you’re ready to get started, follow the guidelines in our toolkit to learn more!
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