A couple of years ago, I received a text from one of my former students, Marilynn, informing me that the aunt who raised her had passed away. We hadn’t spoken in years, and I was touched that she chose to share the profoundly personal moment of losing a parent figure with me. Over the years, I have received similar texts and calls from former students inviting me to graduations, celebrating the birth of a new child, or sharing the news of receiving their first group of students as a new teacher! Students actively reaching out to reconnect time and time again has confirmed for me that the relationships I forged with my students were important and had a long-lasting impact on their lives.
Educators have the unique opportunity to positively impact the social well-being and academic success of their students in a holistic way that can foster a lasting influence in their lives well beyond their exit from our classrooms. This can be done by addressing students’ social and emotional needs in addition to their cognitive needs.
As you continue to develop your practice of building positive teacher-student relationships, consider these five steps from my practice and other master teachers across the country to reinforce your capacity to address the social, emotional, and academic needs of your students.
1. Be personable with your students.
As educators, it’s necessary to set healthy boundaries between our personal lives and our students; however, it's also important for students to see us as human! Try sharing information about yourself, your family, or even a pet to establish that human connection with your students. Students love to hear stories about your children or other important people in your life. They also like to know how you spend your time outside of school. My students knew that I loved playing tennis on the weekends—come Monday morning, they wanted to know if I “kicked some butt"!
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