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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Building Relationships with Students

As an educator, regardless of the position that you hold, there is one key factor to success and that is building relationships with students. When we think of businesses, their goal is to reach their customers just as we want to reach our students and make sure they are successful. Personally, I feel that this has been a big goal of mine. I want to know the students I work with. I want them to know I care, that they are valued, and they matter.

There are 5 main things (although there is so much more) that I always make sure to do. These are things I have done as a teacher, counselor, and assistant principal. These may be things that I am sure many of you already do. I have received a few messages on FB asking about tips for a first year counselor and I would say building relationships would be my #1.

#1 Greetings and Smiles

This is so simple yet important. I never want a student to walk by me and not be acknowledged (at least if I can help it). If I have the opportunity to greet a student and smile at them, I will do it. Sometimes, students feel as if they don't matter or no one notices them. A simple hello and a smile can send the message, "I see you and you matter."

#2 Don't Let Your Feelings Get In The Way
As a counselor at heart, this is hard to say but I what I mean by this is I try to not let how I am feeling get in the way of how I make someone else feel. Many times some of our students are in environments where how the adults feel dictates how everyone else feels. I think it's important for kids to see real emotions and how to properly handle them but as someone whose goal is to inspire students and make them feel valued, if I am in a bad mood....they don't need to see that. They deserve the smile, greeting, and time to ask how they are. I am all about self care for educators but just because we are upset...doesn't mean we need to act that way towards our students.

#3 Get To Know Them
One thing I always try to do is make sure I know what the kids' interests are, what the "cool" things are, and what matters to them. When students are in my office or when I'm in lunches, I always make small talk and ask what their interests are or what the cool new trends are. I use that to relate to kids. For example, at lunches all the kids were talking about Pokemon Go so I made sure to memorize at least 5 Pokemon and play it so I could relate to them. My own kids are elementary age so I ask them about what kids are interested in and they give me all the details. I also try to remember one thing about each student I talk to (if they play baseball, if they love art, etc). This has especially helped when I have t o visit with them regarding a tough situation or a rough day, we already have a starting point.

#4 Be Visible & Involved
Many times kids unfortunately don't trust the words of adults. You say you care but they may have had experiences to believe that words don't mean much. That is why it's important to be involved, visible, and follow through. There is nothing that breaks that trust more than when we don't follow through with students or just appear sometimes. I do struggle with this when it's that busy time of year. I always fear not being visible but even if it is a stop to say hi in the halls, lunch, or in a class I will try my best to do it. And if it involves dressing up to get them excited about reading or whatever it may be, I will do it. An example of this would be dressing Ms. Frizzle for Literacy Day when the school voted for it!
#5 Ask Them
This may be the biggest thing that has helped me in building relationships with kids and it is so simple. Ask them their thoughts on things, ask what they think, and ask them what they need. So often we get caught up in what we, as adults, think is best for kids (such as how they learn best) when we could simply ask them. I am a big believer of student voice. It doesn't mean you will always do what they say or make a change but their feedback can be something to look at and consider in making decisions. I do quick surveys sometimes in my office when students visit for various reasons. I will ask them to write something positive going on in the school or something they are really happy with and then I have them write a concern or something they think we should look at. What is so neat to see is that....they are honest. There has been such amazing feedback from our kids. At the beginning of the year, we were trying to think of what rewards to give our 6th grade students for different things. So, we decided to create a survey and the one thing they wanted the most was something so simple and FREE. What they wanted the most was a pajama day. There is so much power, ownership, and responsibility that comes with student voice for the kids. It's also the most important piece of building that relationship and making them valued.

So, as we begin to plan (hopefully by the pool) for this next school year, I hope you will consider these simple suggestions as a way to build relationships with students. For many of us, our goal is to ensure that our students belong, matter, and are valued. I think through building relationships, we can accomplish this!

Check the blog July 5th for a counselor book giveaway. I will be partnering with Erainna Winnett and she will be giving away 5 SIGNED copies of her book Mrs. Joyce Gives the Best High-Fives and will be doing a guest post here!!!


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