November 20, 2014 14:44 Age: 3 yrs

Building Strong Relationships with Students: Tips from an AF Dean

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Noah Hellman is the dean of students at AF Apollo Elementary

As teachers and school leaders, we know the importance of the hundreds of small interactions we have with students daily. Building strong relationships with students can go a long way in helping them succeed and achieve great results. One key relationship-building strategy is to develop an inside joke or personal “shtick” with each of your students. This joke or routine sends the message to your students that you know and care about them and that you understand them in a special way.  It can also serve as a tool to help struggling students re-focus.

These routines vary wildly depending on the student.  One of my students, Aminat, is really interested in family relatives. I know I can show her a picture of my sister and it will completely turn her mood around. Another student, Phillip—like most people—is fond of his birthday, so I added it to the calendar on my phone. When he’s upset, I just show him my calendar on December 21st and it usually calms him down.

Your “shtick” could be:

  • A secret handshake or greeting
  • A nickname that only you call them
  • A personal joke/story/memory about something funny one or both of you shared
  • A slapstick routine (i.e. when they give a high five, you always move away your hand grab their nose instead)
  • Asking about something personal in their life (a pet, a hobby, a sibling, etc.) 

Make it a game with yourself. See if you can develop one “shtick” with each of your students. Then, add to the “shticks” you already have. When a student is upset, demotivated, or in a bad mood, your “shticks” can be great tools to help them reverse course.

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