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Relationships with students

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Jannah Fitch Jannah Fitch 380 Points

As a student teacher, I'm struggling to build relationships with students. My background is in academic research and I find myself speaking and acting too formally with students. I'm doing lunchroom duty to interact with students in another setting outside of the classroom. I'm enjoying it and trying to emulate the other teachers and staff that monitor the lunchroom. I feel like I'm having very brief, shallow interactions with students. I ask them how there day is and if the food is good. I'm not sure if developing less shallow relationships with students is a matter of time, or if there's a better way to approach them and talk to them. I'm working in a middle school with 7th and 8th graders. I'm interested in knowing how other teachers develop relationships in these types of settings.

Paige Sydoruk Paige Dydoruk 910 Points

Sometimes it's difficult to balance building a relationship with students. You don't want to be too formal, but at the same time you don't want to be too friendly. What I've noticed that works is to find out an interest about each student. So, find out about their favorite sports team or an outside activity that they like. You can even find out about music they like. Then, do some research at home about these interests so that you can talk about them with the students. For example, find out about a student's favorite football team and each week when they play, ask them what the score was for the game. You could also ask them to explain an interest of theirs to them. Any way that you seem interested in something they like will show that you are building a relationship.

Jessica Nguyen Jessica Nguyen 1155 Points

Maybe try loosening up and being a little more natural with them! Formality is always good for the classroom, but lunch is their break from it all. Spending lunch time with your students is a wonderful opportunity to get to know them outside the classroom.

Diana Hallett Diana Hallett 400 Points

I can relate to what you are saying about struggling to form more meaningful relationships with the students. I am a student teacher and at times I have felt disappointed that I do not have deeper connections with my kids. I read what someone below said about figuring out an interest of each student and using that as a building point. I think that is a great idea and I can see how that would be really helpful in fostering that bond.

Brian Yamamura Brian Yamamura 7410 Points

Hi Jannah, From my perspective, as a student teacher I would not get too focussed on relationship building but concentrate more on your actual teaching and what you can learn from that perspective. Developing a rapport with students takes time and they are generally less likely to open up to someone who they know will probably not be at the school for the long term. It seems by observing other teachers, and trying to interact with the students at lunchtime is a good start. You might want to keep an ear open as to any talk they might be having about video games, music, movies etc., which could give you an opening for other topics to talk about. But I would say that being a bit more formal with the students at the start is a better thing as it enables you to more easily attain a level of respect and set out your expectations. Once these have been established, you can be less formal at times with the knowledge that it is easier to return to the more traditional teacher-student relationship when required. As with many things in teaching, I think you will find that being patient will payoff. Good luck!

Mary Bigelow Mary Bigelow 10275 Points

Hi Jannah-- Not many would actually volunteer for lunch duty, so your efforts to get to know students this way is admirable! Keep in mind that, for many students, what you might consider a brief or shallow interaction may be one of the few positive interactions they have with an adult all day! My colleague and I had morning hall duty for a number of years, and just saying "good morning" and "have a good day" as students came in the building lit up many faces. In fact, when one of us was not on duty, students were concerned. Even something as simple as greeting students at the door with a smile and hello when then come into the lab can be important to them. During class, walking around when students are working in groups or individually and saying a few words or asking questions about what they're doing shows students that you're interested in them. Mary B

Daphne Henry Daphne Henry 520 Points

Hi Jannah, I am doing my pre-student teaching and come across similar issues. With 28 students in the class, I find it hard to get to know each one. However, like it was previously mentioned, sometimes what you think as "shallow" might mean the world to a child. I have found that even just asking a few questions about students work as you walk around the class can make a big impact. It is clear that you genuinely want to get to know your kids (especially by doing lunch duty!) and I think that the students will warm up to you with time. Hang in there. Your students are obviously so lucky to have someone like you, who cares so much. Daphne

Chris Leverington Chris Leverington 4035 Points

You'll get better at it when your in the profession and you have 6 classes of 35+ kids :)

Kathryn Cleary Kathryn Cleary 460 Points

As a pre-student teacher getting a first taste of interactions with students in an academic setting, I can really relate to how you are feeling right now. I didn't begin to develop my background with children until a couple of years ago. I currently work as a preschool teacher and work part-time hours in an after school program so I have vast exposure to a wide range of children. It took me a while to feel comfortable with my interactions with the kids. At first, I felt very insecure being the new girl, but once you've let your guard down, the kids will notice. Its all about being yourself around them. They will feel comfortable when you feel comfortable with yourself and your capabilities as a teacher.

Dana Dunnan Dana Dunnan 280 Points

Hi Jannah-
You are better off to err on the side of being too formal. In Up the Down Staircase, Bel Kaufman wrote 'Never smile until Thanksgiving.'
Kids like clarity- in boundaries and expectations.
I did an eight minute interview last Friday with Neal Charnoff on Vermont Public Radio about new teachers, unions, testing, and the Common Core:

Go forth and change the world.
Dana Dunnan


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Steve Kirsche Stephen Kirsche 9145 Points

I think that you are taking a good approach by trying to find something outside the classroom to connect with the students. I'm not sure how effective lunch would be. This is a social time for the students and can be hectic. I joined up as a coach for our running team my first year. This gave me a great opportunity to connect with many different students while running with them.

Jennifer Marmion Jennifer Marmion 1920 Points

I am not yet teaching, but I would think that having a better relationship with your students takes time. Especially in middle school, I would think that they would be a little withdrawn and not feel comfortable opening up to a new person. Taking lunch duty will probably help a lot though. Good luck!

David Goodman David Goodman 425 Points

Jannah, I also do not student teach until next year, but have raised 3 teenagers, with 1 to go. Middle school is an age where relationships with adults are tenuous at best. Being in more than just a classroom setting is a great idea. (Kudos to you for volunteering for that.) My best suggestion is to treat the students as individuals and with respect. Be honest with your praise and your corrections, when they need to be made. The students are at an age of testing boundaries and need teachers who are honest, caring, available and hold students to clear standards.

Caroline Dillon Caroline Dillon 315 Points

Hello, I feel the best way to start making a personal relationship with your students is to let them know you value them. Ask them for help! Let them teach YOU something in stead of you teaching them something. During lunch you can ask, "I'm going to read a book this weekend to my cousin who is about your age, what book should I read to him/her? What book do you recommend?" and from there you can have a meaningful discussion about why he/she enjoys that book and that student will remember the conversation and perhaps after the weekend may even ask you how it went. Make the student feel he/she has something to offer and they will feel more connected with you!

Stephanie Camacho Stephanie Camacho 1780 Points

Good evening, I have worked in an elementary school for 3 years but I have built relationships with my students so that when they leave elementary and start middle school, they still come and visit me. I get along very well with the fifth graders because I show that I care by being firm with them, and letting them know that I really believe in them. I am not all talk, but I will get down and do what I can for them to achieve their goal. They know a little about me to let them see I am a real person. I try not to say too much because it may backfire sometimes and they make fun of you for it. So I really am careful about telling them some personal stuff. I will tell them about my husband (who used to work there) about my daughter , and about being in college. I won't ever confess about being a cat lover and once owning up to 5 cats. They may start meowing at me. Just be honest, but firm with them. Try to make them laugh with a little sarcasm. By then they should be professionals at it. Good luck

Naomi Beverly Naomi Beverly 19130 Points


You may find that you are more of a formal person, and that may not change much.
However, as long as you are being yourself everything will work out fine! Kids sense sincerity and know how to adapt to the many styles of their different teachers.

As long as the students know you care about them, what is going on with them, you all respect each other, and you know how to laugh at yourself a bit from time to time, you'll develop relationships with the students.

Here is some information I found on the web. I hope it helps!

All the best,
Naomi Beverly

The Art of Managing Middle School Students

Who Are you To Tell me What To Do?

Healthy Relationships...Middle School

The Importance of Rapport

Kristin Zama Kristin Zama 3225 Points

Thank you for sharing! I am currently a student teacher and this is definitely a concern and question I have as well. I think that it is important to take time away from the formalities of the classroom and try to engage in more causal conversations with students, especially the students that are more reserved. I think that you on the right track. I appreciate all the other suggestions and comments too!

Susanne Hokkanen Susanne Hokkanen 79520 Points

I will add to what the others have stated here. First, while it is important to develop relationships with your students, it is also important that you maintain professional boundaries. You need to maintain a level of respect with your students to continue to manage your classroom environment. If students see you as a "friend," you may find it difficult to gain their cooperation when you need. This can be especially true in the middle school environment, where students still like to "play". Be concerned, caring and yet cautious - relationships, but not friendships. Volunteering to assist during lunch is wonderful, and it speaks to your commitment to teaching and to your students. If there are after school activities, such as basketball games or track meets, I would recommend attending those too. It is fun to see your students engaged in outside activities, and they enjoy having you there cheering them on. Best of luck to you as you continue in your teaching career.

Traci Silverthorn Traci Silverthorn 2610 Points

I am student teaching in an elementary school, so I can't relate to the older students. As far as for me though, my students love for me to sit and talk with them about everything. This semester I'm working with kindergarten, and they love for adults to just listen. The older the children get the less they want to interact with adults, I think. I have two teenage children of my own, and feel I have more conversation with my students than I do with them. One suggestion if you want to just make small talk....maybe talk about things they like??? That's what I have to do with my own kids to make them talk with me. Good luck.

Leslie Gonzalez Leslie Gonzalez 2260 Points

I am a student teacher as well and I have not had a difficult time establishing a relationship with my students at all. Our program helps a lot because we spends weeks at the university and a few weeks in the field with the students. In no time students were comfortable asking me for help, and interacting with me while I teach. I think it is about making yourself accessible to them and letting them know you are interested in assisting them in any way you can. Most importantly let them feel you care for their learning! Good luck to all student teachers out there! (:

Jessica Villarreal Jessica Villarreal 1385 Points

It is important to balance building relationships with your students along with being sure you are teaching them what is required. I think during guided practice and independent practice is a great time to get to know the students. Going around and observing what they are understanding and once they have finished their work. Seeing what they are reading, drawing, or doing in their spare time can really spark up a conversation and lead to getting a relationship with the student without probing too much.

Jennifer Arbaiza Jennifer Arbaiza 1635 Points

The best way that I got to know my students was by having lunch with them. I usually let them do most of the talking and I have come to find out so much about them. They are willing to talk if you are willing to listen. Don't be too friendly because you still want to keep that authoritative figure but don't be too formal either.Show interest and just let them know that you care. Just make sure that you are genuine with them and they will feel more comfortable talking to you in and out of the classroom.

Rebecca Chun rebecca chun 940 Points

I am student teaching and building a relationship with my first graders were hard at first. I think it all depends on how long you're there as well. I started building a relationship by finding out their interests and build a conversation from there. The way I talked to them was on their level. I think you should talk to them in a "cool" way so students won't be intimidated by the way you speak.

Lori Gillespie Lori Gillespie 3030 Points

I agree you have to be careful but I found that with my fifth grade classes that I am student teaching I have been able to form great relationships with them by simply finding time like lunch, recess, or after school while on car rider duty to laugh and joke with them. I often joke around and banter back and forth with them just like their other teachers do. I can tell some of the lower grade teachers don't feel that it is the most appropriate thing for me to do but it works or me. The students have been able to see that I am human and they know a lot about me and my family since I am so open with them they feel like they can talk to me about anything and that I will be honest and talk to them about anything. Also because of this they did test their limits when it was time for me to actually teach them but I made sure that I had consequences ready to go and that they understood what would happen if they didn't listen. I have found that the students now know when I expect them to be learning and have a serious interaction and at what times we can joke around. As the semester has gone by I have also found that they joking has moved into the classroom also which is fine with me as long as they know their boundaries.

Emily Rodriguez Emily Rodriguez 885 Points

As a student teacher myself I encounter the same problem. It can be very difficult to build relationships with the students. I feel like they see so many adults always walking around them that they don't care much for another one. Especially the way my student teaching works, where I am student teaching some weeks and some weeks I take methods courses I feel that the students can't build any kind of "teacher-student" relationship with me. That being said my Cooperating Teacher really makes a great effort to incorporate me in her classroom. She makes sure to take my input when I have suggestions, my CT always tells the students that she and I are "equals" or "colleagues" and that has made the students see me as on of their teachers. I also make connections on a personal basis with the students by talking to them about the sports they like to play, books they like and I try to always incorporate their interests in my lessons. Good luck, fellow student teacher!

Uchenna Agbahiwe Uchenna Agbahiwe 335 Points

Hello, I am also a student teacher and have similar worries regarding my relationships with my students. It's difficult to form deeper relationships with students, especially when you come in second semester. I think the students notice the effort though, and appreciate someone taking an interest in their life. I try and make references to things they're interested in and what I've heard them talk about in the past so that the students know that I'm listening.

Mendi Butera Mendi Butera 405 Points

As a student teacher, building relationships with my students was one of the first things I worried about stepping into the classroom for the very first time; however, I found that over time, a relationship with your students build naturally. I think the best thing you can do as a student teacher is build rapport. Call them by name when they answer, show them that you have made the effort to get to know their names and faces. I might suggest trying to figure out what they like and incorporate those types of things into math word problems or literacy lessons. Show your students that you have a genuine interest in their learning and what they have to say!

Amber Escobedo Amber Escobedo 680 Points

Sounds like you are making a great effort to get to know your students by taking the extra time in the lunch room. As a student teacher, I found it to be really helpful to spend time with students at recess and lunch (in a setting outside of the classroom). Get to know students names and ask students about their personal interests outside of school, such as sports and hobbies. When you can, incorporate their interests into the learning. I agree with Mendi, I think in time you will naturally build rapport and get to know your students better. Don’t be too hard on yourself!

Chassidy Pittman Chasidy Pittman 1205 Points

I think it will be easier for you if you just be yourself. Kids are most likely to open up to you and interact when they see that you are more than a "Teacher" you are also human like them. You can also attend some of the extracurricular activities featuring your students.

Jerrica Millon jerrica millon 340 Points

I enjoyed reading all of these responses! This is a balance I am also still trying to figure out. What has helped me is talking more about myself and my interests outside of school with my students during my instruction. They like to hear about what I do outside of the classroom (yes, I go to Vons!), so I try to include little tidbits here and there. I also have found that being more informal (not just reading from my lesson plan) during discussions has really helped in regards to engaging them and also fostering more personal relationships. I think finding this balance can only come with experience. You are not alone!

Michaela Baca Michaela Baca 325 Points

I can understand where you are coming from. In the beginning of my student teaching experience, I felt like I was being very formal with the students and it was extremely difficult to connect with them. I still think it is a challenge, but the one thing I am finding that works is asking them about their lives and being geniunely interested in what they have to say. I am also using interactive journals with my class where the students can write letters to me about their life and I will write back to them.

G Nathan Carnes, Ph.D. G Nathan Carnes 3412 Points

All of the posts contains some great information and good advice to me. Now an "old guy in the profession, the key is that Janna was a student teacher at the time of her posting the question. Generally, student teachers don't have the opportunity to establish a strong rapport with students. For me, things were mostly different for full-time teachers because of the many opportunities to interact with students and because they are more of a "fixture". It would be interesting to hear how she and other beginning teachers are doing now. -Nate

Susana Osborn SUSANA OSBORN 665 Points

Hi Jannah! I have been in education for many years as a Paraprofessional (Special Education Aide). Relationships are especially important in our field of education, so at least you know that! I have found many different opinions on the topic and realize it can be harder for some than others to naturally build relationships. I had a teacher use an index card and do "2 for 5". This is where she made an effort for 2 minutes each day for 5 days to learn something new about a student and do this for 5 days. There was just recently an article similar to this at I hope one of these few suggestions help you. Best of luck! Susie

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