A Tale of 2 Teachers

Flaticon Icon Mr. Motta

  • Usually working at his desk when students arrive

  • Main focus is getting through required content

  • Most conversations with students are about academics

Flaticon Icon Ms. Kim

  • Greets students at the door and says goodbye each day

  • Has conversations with students about their interests

  • Includes games, music, class cheers, and check-in meetings in her lessons

Flaticon Icon Make a prediction....

Which teacher's students are most likely more successful at school?

Flaticon Icon If you said Ms. Kim, you're correct!

Building strong relationships with students can help them develop academically and socially — and as a teacher, learning how to create meaningful connections with your students is essential for a successful classroom environment.

2 teachers, walking down school hall, captioned - create new lives, make those connections!

Why are strong connections so important?

Effects of strong connections for students:

Flaticon Icon Increase

  • motivation

  • academic achievement

  • self-regulation

  • physical & mental well-being

Flaticon Icon Decrease

  • absenteeism

  • drop-out rates

  • disruptive behaviors

  • bullying

Showing students you care is the basis of all meaningful relationships.

There isn't a formula or one-size-fits-all recipe. Try out the 4 strategies below and see which ones feel most authentic for your teaching style.


Think about Ms. Kim, from the introduction of this Byte. Which of the comments would her students most likely have made on an evaluation? Click all that apply.

1. Provide a warm welcome

  • Greet students at the door by name each day — and pronounce their names correctly!

  • Offer a variety of greetings for students with different comfort levels (high-five, fist bump, handshake, thumbs up, wave, sign language "hello")

  • Ask how they're doing

  • Comment on something you talked about yesterday

  • Ask about their hobbies or personal events


Think about Mr. Motta, from the introduction. If you were writing his performance review, which comments would you include? Select all that apply.

2. Create safe communication methods

  • Communicate with individual students using private journals that only you and each student sees

  • Set up a check-in station where students can let you know how they're feeling

    Example: Students in this classroom write their student number on the back of a sticky note and place it in the row that represents how they're feeling that day.

An example of a teacher's mental health check-in station Image courtesy of Erin Castillo

Class meetings are a part of the day "designed to enhance students' social and emotional development, while increasing teacher and peer connectedness."

Use check-in meetings as a safe space to cover classroom topics such as bullying, conflict resolution, and goal setting. Encourage your students to express feelings and share opinions.

3. Show interest in your students' lives

Group of students in uniforms dancing along with teacher in back of the group.

  • Get to know what your students are listening to and watching

  • Give them chances to teach you new dances or popular terms

  • Relate class content to what students are interested in

  • Make an effort to go to school-sponsored events that your students are involved in like sports or concert

  • Listen to students' personal stories

  • Learn some phrases in their native language

  • Have lunch with small groups of students occasionally if they're comfortable with you joining them

4. Know your limits

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Students know when you aren't being genuine!

Choosing strategies that don't fit with your personality or trying too hard will come across as fake and have the opposite effect. Be authentic!

Not all students are created equally.

Keep in mind that some people are generally more private or introverted. Being aware and respectful of a student's boundaries is an excellent way to form connections.

Maintain appropriate boundaries.

Creating connections can be a tricky balance between what's appropriate and what's not. While you want to get to know your students, be sure to respect their privacy.

The goal is to form strong relationships WITHIN a class structure that's well-organized and managed.

Nick, from New Girl, talking to Schmidt, saying,

Take Action

Are you ready to build better relationships with your students to make your classroom a more positive place?

Man in suit smiles and claps hands once with the caption - let's get to learning!


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