How To Connect With Your Students

By Dawn Casey-Rowe


teacher’s day can be crazy. We’re helping kids, answering questions, trying not to lose all twenty-three, no, twenty-four of students, dealing with crisis, and make sure learning is taking place simultaneously.

Sometimes, in the whirlwind of the day, I don’t do everything I’m supposed to do on cue. Teaching can often be triage, three or more things in front of me at any given time, and I have to choose what to do first. I’ve forgotten to take the attendance because I was helping a student with her paper.

Luckily, I can enter it later, because I’m in the habit of connecting with each student who enters my room, so I can remember our morning greeting, a bit of conversation, and “How was your weekend?” I don’t have to say, “Uhhh, did I see that person?” I know we’ve made a connection.

Connecting is important. It’s the number one thing that makes me love teaching, and makes me successful. It’s not just about remembering who was in class that day, it’s about making students want to come to my class. Many of them report that they don’t like history but that they enjoy coming to my class. That’s a big endorsement. If by the end of the year, I tell them, I can make them like school a little bit more, that’s my report card. It’s how I know if I’m a good teacher.

It’s all about connections.

How Do I Know I’ve Connected Well?

I remember the conversations I’ve had with students. This is important. When people truly connect they remember personal things that exchanged between them. How many times have you resumed a connection with a person you thought really liked you only to find out they forgot your name or key personal details about you. It’s happened to me a thousand times, and it’s disappointing.

Remembering the details about the students is key. Something as small as remembering their names on the first day can be critical.

Create relationships first. Students may not always want to do my work, but once I’ve created relationships, often they’ll see the value in trusting me. They’ll tell me they had fun with the assignments, and quite often they’ll come back later and thank me for teaching them something of value that they’ve been able to use in real life.

Connect with students every day. Connecting is critical to keeping relationships strong. It’s important to have some personal time with every student as many times each day as possible. It’s easy in some classes because we’re doing groupwork and I can rotate around and have a nice conversation for a minute or two with each student. Some days it gets crazier, especially as deadlines approach and the year progresses. It’s at these times I need to remember to find time with students, whether it’s in the morning, on the way back from lunch, or before or after class. Consistency is one of the most important things in keeping relationships strong.

Be interested in thier stuff. I used to go to every game. All that changed when I had my family. I go to the things I can attend but when I can’t, I make sure to ask how it went. Students understand that I can’t physically do it all, but that it doesn’t mean I care less. Keeping up to date with games and events is something that’s helpful in maintaining a connection with students.

Frequent the sidelines. It’s easy to let quiet students slip away unnoticed. The extroverts jump out of their chairs to answer a question. I make a point to call on all students in the room, giving the quiet students roles where they can connect and shine, too, whether it’s through art, writing, research, or stretching their personalities to connect with others and lead teams.

Be their champion. “Every kid needs a champion,” says Carrie Sorensen in her Learnist board. This is true. Noticing the kids who are in the most need and asking, “What can I do to help you,” goes a very, very long way.

The better our connections, the better our results. Not only at the student level, but the adult level as well. Building connections is the beginning of fostering a positive climate that makes schools shine.

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