Building Strong Relationships with Pupils

All good teaching and good pupil progress is built on strong relationships.

That’s a fact. Don’t believe it? Try listening to some advice from a person you really dislike!

I am blessed enough to have a number of beautiful and enriching relationships in my life. My wife, children, parents and various friends and colleagues. However, sometimes we have fallen out, argued, fought and passionately disagreed. During these times, no one has been willing to listen to the other.

Where relationships are weak, the opportunity to learn is diminished.

With that truth established, I want to share 5 strategies for how to build relationships with your students so that great learning and progress can be made.

1.Be culturally responsive

Find opportunities to package subject content in a way that reflects and values the culture of your pupils. This could be a reference to their country of origin or by introducing a piece of material reflecting their cultural background.

2. Learn names quickly!

This is particularly important for new teachers. Our names are important to us. They give us identity and sense of meaning. Explicitly communicate to a new class that you are going to make an effort to remember their names.

Don’t behave like a robot.

Instead of diving head first into curriculum content, take the first five minutes to play a name game. I usually go around the class asking students to tell me their names, which I immediately repeat back to them. Once I’ve gone round the whole class, I scan the faces and say all of their names back to them whilst making eye contact. This allows me to isolate the names I find tricky. I then make special effort to remember these ones. They often have a good giggle when I struggle to pronounce or remember a name. Which student would miss an opportunity to laugh at the teacher?

3. Set high expectations of pupils

When you settle for nothing less than what they are capable of producing you are building a relationship of expectations. Give them something great to live up to and they will often aim to meet your bar.

4. Run a club

That student who wants to be the class joker will often be the one carrying the bags, helping you take the register and organising the set-up of activities in out of class settings. Create opportunities for students to thrive outside of the classroom. The respect you have for them will grow and this will only strengthen the relationship.

5. Enquire about their welfare

A simple ‘how was your weekend?’ or ‘how did the singing audition go?’ can communicate to pupils that you actually care about their lives outside of school. This is particularly important for pupils who have dealt with family abandonment and have separation anxiety. We all desire love. Teach with some love.

So, now what?

With these 5 suggestions under your best, now can experiment. Choose one class with whom you will make a conscious and deliberate effort to establish a deeper relationship with. After a period of time, take an opportunity to reflect and make a note of your observations to gauge what impact this has had.

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