How To...Build Relationship

In my own personal effort to #ExpandMTBoS, I'm starting a new category of blog posts called 'How To' so I can share the strategies behind the resource. I hope new and veteran teachers alike can find something useful. Click on the tag to the right for more posts!

"The kids have to be your greatest source of enjoyment as an educator." -Angela Watson 

If nothing else, I can say this is true for me. I really enjoy my students. I love getting to know them, asking them questions, hanging out with them all day, making them laugh, listening to their stories, having inside jokes, and just watching them grow into good humans. I think building relationship with students is one of my strong points.

Just don't judge me by my facial expressions, especially before 10:00 AM.

I have kind of a unique situation I guess. I went to the same school my entire life and then came back to teach here. My dad went here, my aunts, uncles, and cousins, and my grandpa even helped build the school. When I started my first year of teaching, my sisters were still in high school. Our numbers have dropped from around 250 when I graduated to about half that now. We are a small school in a small community. I am the only math teacher. So I have every student for three years in a row and some four. I pretty much know them before I meet them and have probably taught someone related to them or I went to school with someone related to them. I also have an excellent memory so I have no problem learning and remembering names.

But I still think I'm pretty good at getting students to like me.

I may not be good at building morale with my colleagues but I think I have some great routines with students {Thanks to Christie for inspiring me back with her latest post}:

  • I have names memorized on day one and I go out of my way to pronounce/spell them correctly and never call them the name of a relative.
  • I let my personality shine through in my powerpoint slides and worksheets and directions. I say please and thank you in my directions, I use smiley faces, sarcasm, and I anticipate their thinking..."Press Enter 3 times. Yes, you have to actually do it three times." "Read the directions below. This is all based on reading so you do have to actually read this time."
  • I have a school Instagram account for all students and I post pictures of classroom activities, group photos, photos from dance and spirit week and prom, announcements, etc.
  • My classroom is clean, colorful, organized, decorated, and always smells good. I know that most teachers don't go to my extreme with decorating but the students really appreciate seeing your personality and likes come out in classroom decorations. I'm looking at you, dude teachers. I have three air fresheners going at all times and I eliminate clutter as much as possible. I have whiteboards all around the room which also helps brighten the room. Students appreciate that I'm one of the few who care what my classroom looks and feels like.
  • My favorite thing to do is buy students their favorite candy for their birthday. I have 85 students but it works out to only be a couple dollars a week or so. I've also used a "Happy Birthday" chair cover from Dollar Tree and written a dry erase birthday message on their desk. I'm going to try to remember to do all three this year.
  • I also have a 'two nice things' rule. Anytime a students says something rude/mean about someone, they have to immediately say two nice things. This applies anytime I hear the rudeness (hallway, ball game, class) and regardless of who the person is or if they are in the room.
  • I dress cute. This may seem random but when the majority of the teachers wear khakis, tennis shoes, and t-shirts every single day, the teacher who wears an actual outfit stands out to students. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,
  • I keep up with current trends, sort of. Language is one of my gifts so I pick up pretty easily on slang, abbreviations, etc. I'm not a big music person but I try to know popular stuff so that I can relate when students bring it up. Or even better, if they say a song lyric or movie quote and I can finish it. They are always impressed by that. Find students that have the same favorite TV shows so you can talk about them through the year. Have answers ready to go for your favorite everything because it will come up at some point. Also be prepared to discuss tattoos, drinking, piercings, parties, drugs, etc They want to know ALL THE THINGS.
  • Go to their stuff. I'm the cheer coach so obviously I go to every basketball game but even before I coached I did that too. Also I like basketball and we were really good. But I also try to hit up volleyball games and stuff too. The more kids that ask you about an event, the more likely you should go.
  • Ask them questions and then actually remember the answers. I love to talk to students about what they want to be when they grow up and come back to that throughout the year. Also, most kids are known for something...a hobby, talent, music obsession, book nerd, athlete, etc. It's really easy to find something to connect with them about. But remembering and building on that are what sets you apart. Which, if they matter to you, is pretty easy to do.
  • Have a sense of humor. I've really got to pull back on my sarcasm but making people laugh is the easiest way to connect. You do you!
  • Show excellence in your job. I never miss a day of school. {I have an amazing immune system, no husband, and and no kids} I plan out every period, all period long. I try to learn new technology. I try to find cool things on Pinterest. Students know that I'm actively working to be better at my job and they know I really want them to learn.
  • Listen to their stories. Our gut reaction is to give adulty advice, and I do that too, but really listen and try to ask questions before giving answers.
  • I always have a small amount of seniors 5-9 in class, on my Student Council, or on my cheer squad. I make little goody bags for each one. They are almost always girls so they usually consist of ponytails, bobby pins, safety pins, hand sanitizer, mints, flossers, travel toothbrushes, tissues, etc. This year I even made a little real life meaning to go along with each item. Now do not be overwhelmed by this because gift giving is my love language, Dollar Tree is my love language, and like I said, I have very small class sizes.
  • Every Monday I ask students about their weekend. Sometimes I ask every person in class or sometimes a few students monopolize the whole conversation. I don't mind and I think it's a nice way to start the week. Now students often ask me about my weekend and they know my usual routine is groceries, clean, church, tv, and naps. If I actually do anything interesting, I make sure to tell them.
  • I used the Remind app as often as possible: quizzes, tests, any sort of deadline, dress up days, assemblies, early dismissals, money due, things for sale, scholarship deadlines, school events, picture day, when I am out for PD, to tell them good luck on ACT day, to tell them to drive safely home from prom, to wish them happy holidays throughout the year etc.
  • I started high fiving every student at the door last year but it fell to the wayside. I still always greet them at the door in some way though.
  • Give students compliments but only when you mean them. This is just something personal for me but I try to give students compliments as often as I can. But not if I don't mean it. If someone gets a drastic haircut that I don't like, I make sure to notice it without complimenting. "I see you got a haircut. Do you like it?" I want them to feel noticed but I'm not going to lie. I get a lot of compliments from students and I sure wouldn't want to feel like they were lying to me either.
  • Dress up for those silly spirit week days. I am the Student Council advisor so it would be pretty bad if I didn't participate. But I am 1 of 2 teachers who actually do. Two. How do we expect students to have school spirit and pride when we don't? Students love to see you look silly- it makes you human. So let them teach you that new dance move or try to rap that song. Let them know you can let your guard down and have a good time.
  • And my number one tip.....don't be a teacher if you don't like teaching, if you don't like students, or if you don't think students will ever amount to anything. I don't know why this has to be said but just don't. You're making everything worse and you should just go find yourself a cubicle somewhere and sit down.
New Ideas
  • I'm wanting to send out good news postcards this year! I've thought about it for a couple years, maybe I will actually do it.
  • Use Remind to wish students Happy Birthday!

Basically it comes down to this...I try. I make an effort to care and show that I care.

And that's pretty cool.


  1. I like your idea of goody bags, I did something like it this year for my kids but I struggled with boy bags. I think I read this as you did it for your cheerleaders but I was thinking maybe I'd do it for my student council members this year too. Any suggestions?

    1. For boys I did batteries, quarters, safety pins, mints, cough drops, hand sanitizer, mini toothbrush, chocolate, and finger nail clippers inside a water bottle.

  2. I love this post. Totally stealing the candy idea.