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back to school building relationships

Classroom Management Strategies: Building Relationships with Your Students

Effective classroom management is the key to a happy and successful year for you and  your students. The term classroom management is something we hear all the time, but isn’t necessarily easy to perfect. Today, I am going to share one of my favourite classroom management strategies that I have used to keep even the most challenging of classes calm, cool and collected.

back to school classroom management strategies for building relationships

Relationships are at the core of all classroom management strategies

No matter how many expectations and routines you set, you will NOT have full control of your class if you haven’t spent time building relationships with your students. Think about it. How likely are YOU to listen to someone who you don’t connect with, or who hasn’t made an effort to get to know and understand you? 

So, how do we build relationships with our students?

First, let the students get to know YOU.

Don’t be afraid to be personal and real. I’m not saying you need to share your whole life story, but give them a little something about you that they might be able to relate to or that helps them understand the kind of person you are better. You can actually make this a really FUN team-building activity during the first week of school. For example, put 5 pictures on the board or around the classroom that represent something about you and have students go around in groups to make inferences about YOU based on the images. Once they are done, you can take them up and then have students create their own!

Second, make sure you are taking the time to get to know your students!

I always love sending home a form for parents to fill out. I use questions like:

  • How does your child feel about returning to school?
  • How would you describe your child’s work habits? Are there strategies that have helped them be successful in the past? (e.g., organized, perfectionist, rushes tasks, forgetful, diligent, procrastinates, etc.)
  • Share a positive fact or trait about your child that makes them the wonderful person they are.

I also have my students fill out a similar questionnaire. Consider questions like… 

  • How do you feel about this upcoming school year?
  • What is your favourite subject? Why is it your favourite? 
  • What do you like to do in  your spare time?
  • What qualities do you respect in a teacher? Think about your FAVOURITE teacher. What were they like? (no names please)
  • Is there anything I (as your teacher) can do to make this year’s learning experience the best yet?
You Matter Google Form for back to school survey classroom management strategies

Sunshine Calls

Another great way to build relationships with both students and their families is by doing sunshine calls. Every week, from the start of the year, I pick one student who will receive a sunshine call on Thursday afternoon. All this means is a POSITIVE phone call home! You could also do email if that is easier, but I think connecting over the phone is more personal.

My best tip? Start with your challenging students. I know, this seems counterintuitive, but if you have a student who you feel like you will need to be calling home for frequently… there is something VERY powerful about having your first point of communication with this family be positive. I’m not telling you to lie if the student hasn’t done anything worth mentioning, but if we try hard enough, we can usually see a number of positive behaviours and interactions from even our most difficult students. 

I don’t tell the students about them because I like when they go home and are surprised with the positive news. I keep the phone call short and sweet and say something like this:

“Hi __! It’s ___’s teacher calling from ___. Everything is okay, I know parents tend to worry when they get phone calls from the school. I am actually calling to talk about something fabulous I noticed ___ do today that I thought you’d like to hear too. *insert positive behavior*. 

It’s simple and takes maybe 5-10 minutes of your time, but is SO valuable and pays off in the long run!

When the Going Gets Tough, Don’t Give Up On Your Classroom Management Strategies!

Let’s face it. No matter how hard we try, there are going to be students in our class that challenge us. Whether it be a behaviour we can’t get to the bottom too, or conflicting personalities, it will happen.

Rather than getting frustrated and damaging your relationship further, I am going to challenge you to implement the 2 x 10 strategy. This has been researched and presented by a number of academics in the field and simply means that you spend two minutes of your day, for ten days, talking to and connecting with a challenging student. 

This process shows a student that their teacher will take a couple minutes out of their day to get to know them on a personal level. For example, rather than asking “how are you today?” as they walk in, you might pull them aside during a work period and ask “do you play sports?” and continue the conversation from there. This could lead to the student sharing that they have a basketball game that night. So the next day, you ask them, “how was your game?”, “what position do you play?”, “what’s your favourite NBA team?” etc. This sets you up to continuously build on your relationship with that student, even after those 10 days are over. For example, later in the year you might say “did you watch the game last night?” or, you might give the student a book or article to read that connects to something they said they enjoyed.

I have tried this strategy with a couple of students and have been absolutely shocked by the results. As we know, behavior can often be attention-seeking. So, if we are providing this student with positive attention and genuine care, they will respond! 

Looking for more help?

Check out my FREE classroom routines & procedures guide book. This freebie will provide you with actionable tips to getting your routines & procedures sorted out for this year. Click here to sign up and grab your copy.

back to school classroom management strategies for building relationships

You may also enjoy this blog post all about my favorite back to school tips!

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I’m Katarina and I teach elementary students in Toronto, Canada. I’m passionate about creating authentic learning experiences that students will love and remember. If you are looking to improve your classroom management and engage your students with easy-to-implement resources and tools, you’re in the right place!

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