How to Develop a Mindset That Builds Strong Teacher-Student Relationships
Positive student relationships are fundamental to student success. When students feel safe and supported, they’re more likely to engage in learning and achieve higher levels of academic success. Dr. Don Parker’s specialty is supporting school leaders and teachers to build authentic relationships with students.
In this webinar, Dr. Parker discusses the mindset that is essential to building strong, meaningful, and lasting relationships with students. He also emphasizes the importance of showing students that you refuse to give up on them so you can change the trajectory of their lives.
Three Tips for Building Strong Teacher-Student Relationships
1. Initiate, Engage, and Sustain
Educators should initiate conversations with their students through simple questions such as “How are you doing?” and “Are you okay?” This temperature check on your students can be the difference between them having a great day or having a bad day; the difference between them feeling welcome and feeling rejected. Introduce yourself, and let your student know you see them and that they matter. Greeting your students at the door as they enter your class is an easy way to let them know that they are significant to you.
The next step is for educators to engage their students by asking slightly deeper questions about how things are going, such as “How are things going in this class?” and “How are you connecting with the content?” Educators can also engage students by checking on their social-emotional health through questions like ”How would you describe your mood today” or “How can I support you?” Simple questions like this reassure students that they are special and cared about, and lets them know that if they ever need to talk, there is someone who is willing to listen. A helpful tool when engaging students is called The Ear Method, which is a simple method that encourages empathetic listening, active listening, and reflective listening.
- Empathetic listening – Listening with not just your ears, but listening with your heart and listening to understand.
- Active listening – When a student opens up to you, you are actively involved in the conversation by using positive body language, such as nodding your head and maintaining eye contact.
- Reflective listening – When a student shares how they feel, you reflect the emotions that they are demonstrating, no matter if the emotion is overwhelming joy or deep sadness.
Finally, educators need to sustain their relationships with students. Building relationships is not a one-time job – it happens over and over and over again. In order for any relationship to be successful, it requires constant work to let the person know that you value them. Just as couples in a romantic partnership must continue to work to keep their relationship healthy and fulfilling, educators must also work to do the same with their students.
2. The 2×10 Method
While initiating conversation with a student can be achieved in seconds as they enter the classroom, sustaining relationships with students requires considerably more time and effort. To help make teacher-student relationship building more approachable and manageable, educator and leading expert on student behavior, Allen Mendler, popularized what is known as the 2×10 Method in education. According to the 2×10 Method, if an educator talks to a student for two minutes a day, 10 days in a row, that student will not only begin to open up, but by the fourth day, they will look forward to engaging with their teacher. The 2×10 Method helps students see that their teachers are consistently making an effort to have a relationship with them, and slowly but surely, the walls those students put up begin to come down. That said, Dr. Parker reminds us that “I don’t care if it takes two days, 10 days, 15 days or a month – we have to be relentless and continue to engage our students until we start to see the bricks on that wall begin to chip away, and for that student to know that your effort to build a relationship with them is genuine.”
3. Break Down Student Walls and Become Their Trusted Person
Research from the American Psychological Association shows that if students have just one trusted adult in their life, it can change the trajectory of their student careers and lives. Unfortunately, the students who need support the most are often the ones who put up emotional walls and make it a challenge for educators to connect with them. But students don’t necessarily put up a wall to keep people out; they put up a wall to see who cares enough to break it down. Students who have been hurt in the past want to open up to adults who they know won’t let them down and will give them the social-emotional support they need to succeed. By employing initiating, engaging and sustaining relationships through techniques such as the 2×10 Method, educators can begin to break down barriers and truly connect with their students on a deeper, more meaningful level.
As Dr. Parker shared, “One trusted adult can be the difference between having hope and having despair; one trusted adult can be the difference between a student deciding they love school or they hate school; one trusted adult can be the difference between student failure and student success. You can be that one trusted adult to make a difference in the lives of your students.”
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