Straightforward Ways To Build Authentic Relationships With Students

by | Aug 16, 2022 | Back to School, Teaching Strategies, Uncategorized | 0 comments

If you think about your student days, what do you remember the most? For me, the strongest memories of my education are the teachers that made me feel loved, encouraged, and supported. 

But you know what else I remember? I remember the teachers that didn’t. 

What I don’t remember much about is the day in and day out of school. The activities we did, the lessons we learned, etc. All of that feels like a fog or a far, (FAR), distant memory. 

The relationships that I built outlasted most of  the lessons I learned, and I believe the same is true of students today. Kids will try hard for teachers they like. Students work for their teachers, not necessarily because of the topic. 

This is why it’s so important your students learn you are on their team, they can trust you, and you only want what is best for them. 

I always found that having a good relationship helped with any potential conflict. With this in mind, here are eight ways you can build relationships with your students. 

Straightforward Ways To Build Authentic Relationships With Students

Don’t Forget To TALK To Them

I know this seems like an obvious – almost ridiculous – thing to start with, but I feel like it must be said. The best way to get to know your students is to just talk with them.

How are you going to learn more about who your students are without talking to them? Figure out what they enjoy doing, what their family dynamics are, and who they are as a person. 

I found that my duty times were a great opportunity to connect with students. Instead of just staring at the hallway, I walked up and down my area and talked with the students waiting for the bell to ring.

Having these small conversations builds rapport with students, creating a culture of open communication.


Find The Good (Even If You Have To DIG)

Have you ever felt like an entire school day went by without you saying a positive word to a student? 

Maybe you honestly just had one of those days where everyone was testing boundaries – or maybe you didn’t take the time to find the good. Did a student who always struggles to be ready get out their notebook without complaining? Make sure they know you noticed! 

Make it a point to recognize and reinforce positive actions in your students. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive. A simple verbal acknowledgement to the student can move mountains. 

Also, I found a quick handwritten note or call home with the intention to just share something positive can build a really strong bridge between you and the family (and the student, of course). 

You can also acknowledge students in front of their peers in the classroom, but I would be a little wary of that, especially if you are teaching upper grades. It’s really easy for students to compare themselves to others, and when you praise one student, the peer group can sometimes twist things around. I preferred to speak with the student somewhere a little less public, such as walking to lunch or recess. 

If you are having one of those days, just find something positive to compliment and your mindset will follow.

Say Good Morning!

Make it a point of looking every student in the eye at the beginning of the day. This will make kids feel like you see them. Everyone wants to know they are seen, even if they have a funny way of showing it. 

Making sure you say good morning to every student individually also gives you the chance to see if anyone looks like they’ve had a rough day so far. Use this moment to check in on your students. 

Thank Your Students

When the bulk of your students are doing what they should, thank them for it! 

In general, show appreciation when your class is trying hard, even if you don’t have model behavior from every student.

Recognizing small efforts makes your students feel appreciated and helps build that rapport you are working towards. 


Say I’m Sorry When You Should

Teachers are only human, and we all make mistakes. If a student respectfully calls you out and you realize you are wrong, own up to it. 

One thing to be careful of is to make sure respect goes both ways. If a student is being rude, don’t give them any airtime by acknowledging them in the moment. That just pulls you into a power struggle. You can correct your course and speak to that student later about the right way to go about telling you that you made a mistake. 

Don’t let students walk over you for the sake of a good rapport. They still need to be respectful, just as they would expect you to be respectful.

Use Recess Or Clubs To Connect

When I worked at an elementary school, I created a walking club at recess. It was a great way to get myself and the students moving. I never made students feel like they had to walk with me, but I always ended up with a few that wanted to join. 

The students that usually chose to walk with me were students who needed a bit of extra time from a teacher or who maybe felt like they weren’t connected. 

I really got to know and understand the students who walked with me during recess and those relationships helped in the classroom. 

Student Of The Week

I chose to do a student of the week (or Star Student) program in my elementary classes, but you could also use a modified version in secondary grades. 

I chose different students weekly, doubling up when necessary to make sure everyone got to be student of the week once before the year was over. 

I would write a simple note explaining why the student was chosen. I typically found something to praise like perseverance, being kind, coming to school prepared, etc. I would read the reasons aloud to the class on Friday, announcing who it was at the end. Then I gave the letter to the student to take home. (I would not read the letter aloud in secondary. Once peers become more important, I would write the letter and give it to the student directly.)

The next week, the student was allowed to bring in photos or a small token to display in the classroom that showed a bit more about who they are. Some students brought in trophies, while others brought in something else related to their hobbies. 

I found this tool to be extremely useful in both encouraging students and in getting to know them. Families loved getting a positive note home about their child, too! 


I personally didn’t use journals in my classroom, but I have many teacher friends who did. 

For them, morning work or warm-up time was journal time. Students could write what they wanted, and the teacher read and responded. 

A journal allows students to “talk” with their teacher privately, which can really build a solid bond. 


What are other ways you build relationships with your students? 

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Over twenty plus years, my educational career has spanned four continents and two states, as well as eight grade levels!

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