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Building Relationships with Students

Teach in Ontario

Education research shows that strong student-teacher relationships positively affect student motivation and achievement, and result in lower dropout rates. Building relationships with your students is a process that begins on the first day of school. When your students arrive at your classroom for the first time, they should be welcomed warmly into a pleasant, comfortable and functional classroom. Resources and materials in the classroom should address a variety of interests. This will arouse the students’ curiosity about their new classroom and their new teacher.

Student curiosity about their new teacher is easily addressed by letting your students know who you are as a teacher. Students should learn that you:

Get to know who they are. In addition to learning about your students academically, it is important to make an effort to learn about their interests, dreams and goals. When you take the time to chat about things that interest a student, you are demonstrating that you value and care about that student.

You, as the teacher, are responsible for building and maintaining the teacher-student relationship. You are also responsible for maintaining the professional nature of the relationship and for establishing the boundaries. Students need consistency, fairness and clearly defined expectations to guide their behaviour in the relationship.

Establishing Classroom Expectations

It is important to establish classroom expectations early in the year, and it is equally important that students participate in this activity. Students who have contributed to the development of classroom expectations will feel more responsibility to uphold those expectations.

Perhaps you could begin by asking students to work in small groups to define the behaviours that annoy them in classrooms. Then, as a large group, work to reach consensus about the behaviours that everyone can agree upon as most annoying. To establish classroom expectations, the students can create an agreement for classroom behaviour that addresses these annoying behaviours. It is important to express these expectations in positive language. For example, expectations should be worded:

Without a disciplined classroom, learning cannot occur. When students believe in the classroom expectations, and positive student-teacher relationships are in place, behaviour issues will be less likely to occur. The effort required to establish respectful, supportive relationships is well worth expending. You will find that you spend far more time engaged in teaching and learning than addressing classroom management issues.

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