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How to Build Positive Connections with Your Students

Learn how to build positive connections with your students from education consultant Grace Dearborn in this Howcast video.


There are a lot of different ways to build positive connections with students but some simple ideas are things like greeting them at the door. When we greet our students at the door so that we make eye contact with them and make some little personal connection with them, every day when they walk into the room, the whole class is a little bit at ease, feels a little bit more welcomed into the room. One of the strategies that you can try for this is called the 4H strategy. You meet your student at the door and they have to give you one of four Hs before they're allowed to enter the classroom. The four Hs are a hello, a high five, a handshake or a hug. At the secondary level when we're talking about middle or high school, that's called the 3H strategy because I'm sure, as you can guess, we drop the hug because that can get weird and inappropriate.

Even at the secondary level greeting students at the door, and maybe not every period but in that one period you're having trouble connecting with can really soften the way they relate to you and how welcomed they feel when they come into the room. You also end up finding out some really interesting things. You can see right away who is coming into the room with a chip on their shoulder or bringing baggage in from something else that has already happened earlier that day or the night before. So you can try and head that off at the pass because at least you know it's happening right when they come in by how they say hello to you. Another thing you can do to positively connect with a class is to share some information about yourself.

Students want to know information about us and they sometimes perceive us as being these kind of Otamatone robotic beings who live, eat, breathe and sleep at the school. I was teaching at a high school once that was very close to where I live and I was at the grocery store shopping with my son in the basket, my infant son in the basket and two of my students walked by me and did kind of a double take as they walked by. One of them said, "Mrs. Dearborn." I said, "Hello, how are you?" They said, "What are you doing here?" I said, "I'm grocery shopping." And the kid was like, "What? I don't understand." Because they had no perception of me outside of the classroom. I was just this person who lived at the school and told them what to do in the classroom.

After they got over the shock they saw my son they asked, "Are you married? Do you have other children?" They wanted to know everything about me. The next day I went into that class and they had of course told everybody else in that class and then everybody wanted to know every single thing about me. "When did you get married? How did your husband propose? What did you wear? Do you have other children? What are their names? What do they look like? Do you have pictures?" That class softened towards me after that because they felt more connected to me on a human level and felt less of a I'm up here and you're down there, not that that isn't also true, right? I'm not there to be their friend, I'm there to be their teacher and support them and to be their mentor but still, the relationship softened in a way that was good for me and was good for them in the classroom.

Sometimes sharing a little bit of personal information can help positively connect with an entire class. Another way to connect with your entire class is to bring humor or laughter or levity in some way into your classroom. This might be joke time where you tell them jokes or they tell you jokes but they have to be appropriate and you have to set a structure up around that so you don't get inappropriate jokes. Bringing that into the classroom will again help soften how they feel towards you and the way they relate to you and to the class. Those are some ideas for positively connecting with the class.

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