Building & Rebuilding Relationships; A Fresh Start

Building relationships with students can be a difficult task.  Some years, you hit the jackpot and find that you are assigned that perfect class.   What happens when you don’t get that class?  What do you do then?  Even worse, just imagine you are the third teacher the class has had in that academic year and it’s only January! (yup, that has happened to me).

When I started teaching (many years ago), I spent my NQT year doing maternity cover at three different schools.  Consequently, this has given me the confidence to go into a new class and build relationships quickly.  In this short post I will impart some of the different approaches that I’ve taken and direct you to further sources of note (blogs, podcasts, etc.)

As a colleague of mine once said in a staff briefing;

I’m not here to teach you how to suck eggs…


True; I’m simply putting a few reminders out there and organising my thoughts so that I have a reference point when coaching and mentoring.

  • Say “Hi” – Or “Good morning”, “Good afternoon” or even a “Good day!”.  When you pass a student on a stairwell, when you are out doing lunch duty or when you enter a meeting with the student and a parent/carer.    High Five

Some students like the ‘fist bump’ others love a ‘high five’..woo! Students are human too.

  • Smile and invite – Always invite the students into the classroom.  It can be tricky when you do not have your own classroom but get the students into the habit of waiting outside if possible.
  • Names – It’s an obvious one and very simple (note that I did not say it’s easy) but learn your students’ names, maybe even give them a unique greeting (Coach has different handshake for each team player). How would you feel if someone kept calling you the wrong name?  I’ve been called Miss Portal, Miss Potter…
  • Be positive and give praise – Find a reason to praise students; good posture, nice writing, great response.  Make them feel good.  Watch the short 7 minute TedTalk by Rita Pierson “Every Kid Needs a Champion” and also look at this Positive Framing video clip (1 min 7 secs).  I just love the phrasing;

…you are showing me excellence right now, I’m really proud of you!

  • Be different – Every now and then, do something different.  It will be a surprise for the students and could be the making of a memorable lesson.  Having read the blog of @jamessturtevant I know he sometimes links his outfits to his lessons!  (Listen to James’ Connecting with Students podcast on Talks with Teachers).  You could share a photo, a story, a food item…this is one of those great stories that I have shared where I took an adventure bike ride and there was this really steep hill.  I didn’t have much water left in my bottle and all I could see was a narrowing lane with lots a trees; a forest some might say.  I was scared but felt the need to take a selfie and then…

This photo led me nicely into a lesson on gradients


  • Be passionate – If you are not interested in your subject, why should your students show an interest?  Be passionate!  Show them why yours, is the best subject to learn. (Definitely on point with this @AdamWilliamsRFA – that was a great CPD session!)
  • Don’t apologise – Do not be ‘Sorry but this isn’t going to be very interesting today; we just need to learn this” or “I know it’s Friday period 6 but…”.  DO NOT apologise for teaching your subject.
  • Be  firm but fair – You need to be consistent with your students.  Don’t change your rules from day-to-day or week-to-week.  Nor should you have favourites as this will undoubtedly lead to problems.  Listen to James’ talk at around 6mins 30secs, here he discusses how he dealt with a group of standoffish students –  Connecting with Students.
  • Listen – Really listen to your students.  You will find that by listening, you find out more about their successes and pick up on any problems that they may have.  Planning something of interest to them, in your lesson is providing students with evidence that you have listened and that you are interested in them.
  • Build relationships with non-teaching staff too! – It’s worth it for you and for your students.  I will not repeat the detail as this article says it all Building Relationships Campus-Wide

I can not guarantee that these will all work for you in your school but I’m just saying that at different times, the above have worked for me.   Albiet with different students and across different schools but they have worked.  Use your personality, quirky traits or hobbies to start building relationships.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

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