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Bridging the Gap: 5 Ways to Improve Teacher-Student Relationships

We all remember that one teacher who made us feel excited about learning—the one who went beyond the syllabus. And we also remember those teachers who seemed distant, unapproachable, or disinterested in us. The difference between the two often boils down to the quality of teacher-student relationships. Here are five ways to improve those relationships and create a positive and engaging learning environment.

1. Are You Approachable?

That first month of school is tough. You’re staring at 20 new faces and trying to connect with them all at the same time. Where do you start? Well, students are more likely to open up and seek help when they feel comfortable with their teacher. Here are a few things to try:

  • Greeting students individually at the beginning of class

  • Take an interest in their lives outside of school

  • Showing empathy when they face challenges. 

  • Incorporating icebreaker activities

  • One-on-one check-ins

Remember, being friendly does not mean compromising on discipline. But it can enhance respect and cooperation in the classroom. Being approachable is more than just putting on a smile. It involves creating a welcoming and supportive environment where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns. Demonstrating genuine interest in their well-being shows that you are invested in their success inside and outside the classroom.

2. Do You Actively Listen?

For students, knowing that their teacher listens to them attentively can be empowering. Encourage students to express their thoughts and concerns. When they speak, maintain eye contact, nod, and respond thoughtfully. This not only creates a supportive environment but also provides valuable insights into each student's unique needs and learning styles.
Give students your full attention. Paraphrase their statements or questions to show you understand their point of view. And avoid interrupting students while they are speaking! 

Create space for student feedback and suggestions on course material and teaching methods. By incorporating their ideas into your teaching approach, you show that their input is valued and that you are committed to continuous improvement.

3. How Do You Embrace Diversity?

You want a classroom that honors diversity—how do you show it?

Each classroom is a melting pot of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and learning abilities. Be mindful of cultural differences, and incorporate diverse perspectives into your teaching material. Encourage students to share their cultural traditions and experiences. When you demonstrate respect and understanding, students can follow your example.
Take the time to research and include diverse authors, scientists, and historical figures in your curriculum. This exposes students to a wide range of perspectives and role models.

Consider organizing multicultural events or inviting guest speakers from different backgrounds to share their experiences with the students. This provides an opportunity for students to learn from real-life stories and gain a broader understanding of the world around them.

4. Is Your Feedback Constructive?

Not all feedback is created equal. Providing constructive feedback, both positive and critical, can make a world of difference. Highlight what they excelled in and how their efforts contributed to their success. Instead of saying, "Great job on the essay," say, "Your arguments were well-structured, and the evidence you used was compelling."

When you see areas of improvement, be tactful and focus on the actions rather than the student. Avoid using negative language or comparing students to their peers. Instead, offer actionable suggestions for growth and encourage them to see mistakes as opportunities for learning. Assume your students are trying their best, and let students know that mistakes are part of the learning process.
Constructive feedback should be S.A.F.E.—specific, actionable, focused, and empathetic. 

5. What’s Your Favorite Way to Mentor?

Be a role model by showcasing your passion for learning. When students see their teachers as enthusiastic learners, it ignites a spark within them to strive for excellence. Engaging students in the learning process involves incorporating educational games, multimedia presentations, or real-world case studies.

Assign projects that allow students to explore topics they are passionate about. Provide guidance and resources, but let them take the lead in shaping their projects. 

Building Bonds, Shaping Futures

Improving teacher-student relationships is not only about creating a pleasant classroom atmosphere but also about shaping the future of education. This not only enhances academic performance but also nurtures personal growth and emotional well-being. You have the power to create a lasting impact on students. This year, focus on connection and transformation, one positive relationship at a time.

Written by Brooke Lektorich
Education World Contributor
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