A phrase that I have heard many times since moving to teach high school is that elementary teachers love kids and high school teachers love the content.
I have always had a problem with that comparison. As a teacher it boggles my mind that you wouldn’t like kids, that you would care more about passing on the content you are teaching and not reaching the student with the content. Unfortunately, that is something I have witnessed before as a student and as a teacher. There is sometimes this stigma that high school teachers do not know how to connect with their students or just don’t want to.
I will admit that I don’t have any experience teaching below 6th grade, but what I have noticed is that high school deals with an entirely different type of learner. It is harder than ever to reach students and it can be harder and harder for teachers to connect with students. Another part of the problem is that we are I feel sometimes limited in our range of what it means to build relationships in our classrooms. Many high school teachers that I have worked with have said that they feel the traditional ice breakers and community building games are too touchy-feely for them and seem less than sincere.
I will admit that at times, I fall into that sentiment as well. I don’t always like the typical team building materials, but I 100% believe that building relationships with your students is important. That goes for all of your students as much as you can. What I think we should work on is finding ways to build those relationships in way that is authentic to our personality and teaching style.
Don’t get me wrong there is a place for cheezy and over the top and I think it is a good thing for all age levels to participate in those activities as well. As much as some may complain, they can definitely build a bond and build community in a group. What I want to talk about though are some ways that teachers that struggle with that type of community building can still build meaningful relationships with all of their students.
Here are some ways that I take time to build community in a way that I feel is authentic to me and my students.
The key to building relationships in the classroom is to find a method that you are comfortable with. Do you like humor, games, competitions, projects, or conversation? What are some ways that you can authentically show students that you care about their story? I do not think that there is only one way to build relationships with students, but we do them a disservice if we don’t try to connect with them on at least some basic level. We also cannot be afraid to try something outside our comfort zone if we are not reaching our students in the ways that we have in the past.
We would love to hear how you build relationships with your students!