As an educator, one of the strongest impressions you can make on students is how you make them feel. When students feel their teachers care about them and want what’s best for them, they are more likely to engage, work hard and cooperate.

The opposite is also true: When students lack strong relationships with their teachers it impacts their academic achievement, increases their likelihood to engage in disruptive behavior, and even factors into their decisions to drop out.

These three strategies will help you build stronger relationships with students and improve their learning experiences.

  1. Show Students You Care

Students report that one of the main reasons they choose to drop out of school is because they feel as though their teachers don’t care about them. The truth is that most teachers do care about their students but just aren’t communicating those feelings effectively.

Here are a few strategies you can try to help reach your students:

  • Ask students about their lives outside of school (morning meetings are a good platform for this).
  • Pay extra attention to students who display high emotions or disrupt class with negative behavior.
  • Listen to students and ask them questions to show you are interested in them.
  • Consider how you, yourself, were cared for as a child. Research shows that we are more likely to demonstrate empathy toward others based on our own experiences. This may or may not be appropriate for a particular student’s needs.
  • Be mindful of how you talk to students, especially in front of their peers.
  • Make a list of your students and rank how well you think you know them. Make a point of learning more about the students who rank low on your list — often these students can benefit the most from extra care.
  1. Consider Your Students’ Perspectives

We often talk about the importance of teaching students empathy and encouraging them to consider the perspectives of others. Practice what you preach, and try to put yourself in your students’ shoes to better understand their experiences. This will help you address the root cause of issues and problem behavior so you can better address their needs.

Start by considering what the classroom experience is like for a particular student. How often does the student receive positive or negative feedback? Does the student believe you care about him or her? How does the student feel about you? Test your assumptions by observing the student’s behavior. You also can try explicitly asking the student what he or she likes or dislikes about class, teachers, and the school environment.

Use this exercise to improve your student’s experience. For example, if the student is receiving an unproportionate amount of negative feedback, take a step back and try to correct their behavior or performance in a more constructive way.

  1. Practice Constructive Discipline

Believe it or not, correcting behavior can be an opportunity to strengthen relationships with your students. The number one rule when it comes to discipline is to be respectful. Losing your temper and reacting with sarcasm, scolding, or anger can harm your relationship with a student. Instead, take a deep breath and administer a consequence that is fair and meaningful. Show that you respect and care for the student, and communicate in a way that preserves the student’s dignity.

Be mindful of equity in your discipline and corrective behavior. Research shows that students of color receive significantly higher rates of disciplinary action. Take steps to reduce unconscious bias and make sure all students are being treated fairly. Here is a quick tip sheet to help you begin this process.

Relationships Matter

A strong teacher-student relationship can be one of the most powerful tools in your toolkit. When students believe you care about them, they are more likely to enjoy school, perform well, and follow class rules and policies. It’s important to take an active role in connecting with students to show them you care and are committed to their success.

Learn more about how social and emotional skills, like building strong relationships, contributes to positive student outcomes. Contact our experts at Aperture Education to chat about how social and emotional learning (SEL) can help your students succeed.