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How to Build Relationships with High School Students

We are often told by admins and colleagues that a strong, positive relationship between learners and their teacher is the pillar of any classroom management plan. However, new teachers might wonder about what specific actions will help them build relationships with their students. At least, this is a question or more of a concern that is usually raised by my new colleagues in the beginning of the school year. Therefore, I have decided to compile and share a list of useful tips that might help teachers who are new to the teaching profession build strong and positive relationships with their teenage learners.

  1. Greet students at the door by their name and anywhere else in school (library, hallway, or school cafeteria).

  2. Learn more about your students’ interests, hobbies, or extracurricular activities, and often ask them about their well-being.

  3. Be authentic and enthusiastic. Your energy and love for the subject you teach will show learners that you care and want them to learn.

  4. Use positive reinforcement and celebrate small victories. For example, if students participate a lot, praise them. Let them know you are proud of them.

  5. Make sure you walk around the classroom. Do not sit at your desk which is in fact a barrier between you and your students. Be present, reachable, and accessible. By circulating the room, students know that you are accessible to them when they need help, and this also helps you monitor their work closely.

  6. Share personal anecdotes. Students like to learn about their new teacher, but make sure you do not divulge too much about your personal life.

  7. Make your lessons relevant to learners. If they clearly understand the learning objectives of a lesson and the reasons why an activity is useful, they will be more engaged during class.

  8. If you make a mistake, do not be afraid to apologize. Admitting a mistake will show students that you are human. Of course, you should avoid making a lot of errors; otherwise, you will quickly lose your credibility.

  9. Use collaborative activities to help students build relationships with their peers, too.

  10. Identify students who might be more difficult to handle and gain their trust.

  11. Use an assertive tone. Communicate your expectations clearly.

  12. Each class, choose a few students who did something well and praise them for their good work or good behaviour. Make sure you do not choose the same kids all the time.

  13. Incorporate some humour and laughter into your lessons. I strongly believe that high school students are more cooperative and behave better when they have a firm but a kind teacher they can also have some fun with.

  14. Set your limits. You are not your students’ friend. You can be friendly with them, but you also have to show them you are the adult and things will go your way. You will not build a better relationship with learners if you please them all the time or if you are too flexible and loose. Teenagers need rigour and clear boundaries. Naturally, your high school learners will defy the rules and will question your decisions, but by being a firm, kind, and fair teacher, you will also earn their trust and respect.

I hope these ideas will help you to build better relationships with your students. If you are you looking for more classroom management tips, read my 5 Classroom Management Tips for High School ESL Learners blog post, as well.

Happy teaching!

Kynga C.


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