As our students and teachers remain socially distanced, our classroom leaders are facing an unfamiliar challenge—how to form bonds of trust and respect with students whom they only see in person a few days a week at most, or not at all. In unfamiliar times we must turn to innovative approaches and modalities. To help you continue to form the meaningful relationships with your students that we have relied upon for decades, we’re providing six impactful and genuine ways that can help you bond with your students.

1. Discuss Expectations as a Group. Gather your students together and collectively agree on expectations as a classroom. Explain to your students what you need from them in terms of their active participation, polite listening, and respectful treatment of you and their peers. Then listen to their feedback and ideas for how you can be mutually successful as individuals and as a class. This kind of collaboration will showcase to your students that you value their insights.

2. Make Time for One-On-One Conversations. You may not be able to gather with your students, but that means that you can engage with them one-on-one. Make time for brief, five-minute conversations with each student periodically throughout the year. Ask every student how they feel about their progress, what coursework they enjoy, and what may still have them confused. Students will believe that they are in a safe space to open up and share concerns and honest feelings in these candid conversations. In these moments, bonds of trust and reliance will form long-term.

3. Provide Structure. Students may act as if they would rather play games than sit in a formal presentation setting, but they need structure. Not every student has the benefit of a controlled home life that fosters consistent amounts of sleep, dependable family mealtimes, and steady rules backed by responsible discipline. By providing your students with the structure of a classroom environment in which they know what is expected of them, what schedule they will face, and how they must behave to earn optimal results, they will feel trust in you as their leader.

4. Get to Know Your Students and Allow Them to Shine. Familiarity helps to form bonds. Show genuine interest in your students and their lives by asking them questions in group settings and encourage them to share stories and talk about their interests and passions. Especially when you encourage a diverse group to share information and stories about their culture and family history, you not only help your students bond with you, but you enable them to bond with one another by fostering cultural curiosity and understanding.

5. Strive to Have More Positive Interactions Than Negative Ones. With every single student, when it comes to your interactions, accentuate the positives. Even with students who lack discipline or are frequently disruptive in class, find ways, both one-on-one and in group settings, to have as many positive interactions with them as possible. Ask about their weekends, encourage them to share stories and progress on hobbies and interests, and stay in close contact with their guardians. As much as you can, maintain a balance in the positive with every student interaction, and you will earn their respect and form bonds of understanding and appreciation.

6. Remember to Make Learning Fun. We are inherently drawn to people who make us smile and laugh. The most successful teachers incorporate humor, enthusiasm, and fun into their lessons without sacrificing academic standards. Make your classroom an oasis of enjoyment where students want to engage and be active participants in the learning environment. Through shared moments of levity, you and your students will develop respectful appreciation.

By building a structured, fun, and open classroom environment, you put yourself in a position to be a role model and trusted advocate in your students’ development. When you and your students feel united and mutually committed to respect and support, you form the types of bonds that will be remembered for a lifetime.

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