Students learn best with teachers they have a good relationship with. That is not to say you need to be their ‘friend’ but just that they need to perceive you as fair, approachable and competent. Young people need to feel that they are respected by their teacher. They may be able to learn from someone they suspect dislikes them but usually this creates a mental block.
Here are some tips you can use today to help build your relationship with your class.This will help your classroom culture and help with behavior management (and save you time!)
1) Admit when you made a mistake or do not know something
As adults it is tempting to pretend we are gatekeepers to All Human Knowledge or that we always do the right thing. Your students might give you a (slightly) hard time the first time you are honest about your limitations but they will respect your integrity at the same time.This example also encourages them to give things a try even if they suspect they will fail.
2) Trust them
In one of my old schools with some really difficult students, most teachers limited control of what happened in lessons. They would stop and start activities every few minutes and everyone had to be doing the same thing at the same time. I tried something different with a few classes, where my students had more open-ended tasks and I was not on top of them the entire lesson. It does not work for every student (what does?) but for some groups, it can be a revelation.
For the other groups who are not ready for that sort of freedom, get them to volunteer for responsibilities around the class. We feel more connected to people we have done a favour for, rather than the other way around.
Forget all that ‘no smiling before December rubbish you might have heard. We are social animals. Humans mirror the facial expressions they see and if they are pulling particular facial expressions, they start to feel that emotion. If you genuinely look happy to see your students, they will feel happy to see you.
4) Be playful
You don’t need to roll up to class in clown make up, just keep them on their toes with fun activities.
Word play, puns, jokes of the week, quizzes, games, competitions… these are all tools that make lessons more interesting and your topics more ‘sticky’ in memory terms. Laughter also reduces symptoms of stress. If your students are anxious and serious, they will probably still learn but if they are relaxed and entertained, they will be able to retain so much more.