What Building Relationships With Students Really Means

Building Relationships With StudentsIt’s common for teachers to misunderstand the term “building relationships.”

They hear of the importance of creating connections with students—particularly difficult students—and assume it means they need to spend more time with them individually.

They assume it means they need to try and get to know them on a more personal level.

But for a real-world teacher, finding the time to build relationships in this manner is not only unrealistic, but it’s also ineffective. In fact, seeking out individual students in an attempt to earn their trust and rapport can do more harm than good.

You see, for most students, being cornered into a non-academic conversation with their teacher is uncomfortable—exceedingly so. It can make them feel clumsy and self-conscious and at a loss of anything to say.

Even the most socially confident students will feel unnerved and wary of your motives. And yet, there are teachers who day after day insist on pressing the issue.

They beckon students out of line, into hallways, and away from the social safety of fellow classmates. They barge into personal space. They query likes and dislikes and commonalities. They become forward and overbearing.

Although their heart is in the right place, what develops is a relationship of awkwardness and embarrassment. What develops is defensiveness and detachment. What develops builds walls instead of tearing them down.

But the goal of building relationships with students isn’t familiarity. It’s influence. And influence comes about not by one-on-one interactions, not by getting to know a student’s favorite ice cream or video game, and not by being hip to current pop-cultural trends.

No, influential relationships come about through your trust and likability.

If your students trust you because you always do what you say will, and they like you because you’re consistently pleasant, then powerful, behavior-influencing rapport will happen naturally and without you having to work at it.

Your students will seek you out and want to be around you and get to know you better. They’ll be drawn to you and pulled effortlessly into your circle of influence.

Your conversations and interactions then become open and easy. When you sit down to lunch with groups of students or meet them in their line before school, the give-and-take flows smoothly, organically. Nothing is forced. Nothing is inauthentic.

Even quiet and shy students—especially quiet and shy students—will come out of the woodwork to laugh and joke with you and exchange goofy smiles. This in turn gives you remarkable leverage to influence behavior, work habits, and enthusiasm for being part of your classroom.

So stop buying into the notion that you have to build relationships one student at a time. Stop thinking that you have to add yet another time-consuming strategy to your overflowing plate. Stop spending more time with some students and not others.

The fact is, the most effective way to build relationships with students also happens to be the most effective approach to classroom management.

Be true to your word. Follow through with your classroom management plan. Refrain from any and all harmful, scolding, bribing, manipulative, or friction-creating methods of managing behavior.

Smile. Love your students. Bring humor and joy to your classroom. And you’ll never, ever have to try to build influential relationships.

They’ll just . . . happen.

If you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving classroom management articles like this one in your email box every week.

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17 Responses to What Building Relationships With Students Really Means

  1. lmccain May 31, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    Thank you so much for a well written article. I may try some of your suggested strategies.

    • Michael Linsin May 31, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

      You’re welcome, Imccain!


  2. Herbert Corpuz July 8, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    This is a very useful article. It reminds us of our role as educators to inspire and be a good influence to our learners. Thanks Sir Michael! I shall be sharing this today to my co-teachers.

    • Michael Linsin July 8, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

      You’re welcome, Herbert! Good to hear.


  3. Mindy Moran July 13, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    Hi! I am going to share this article tomorrow in a session I am doing for Carol Tomlinson at her summer institute. We are talking about learning environment and the importance of teacher-student connection and community, etc, and this piece very simply states the obvious — that no tricks exist here. I also keep getting lost in your links, love the one about eating lunch w/ students as well. I will send everyone to your blog. Thanks!

    • Michael Linsin July 13, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

      Thanks Mindy! I appreciate you sharing the article.


  4. Melissa December 4, 2014 at 7:22 am #

    I have found this to be true throughout my years. of teaching and being a student. It is best practices.

  5. Natasha November 17, 2015 at 12:59 am #

    Hi Michael
    I am a middle school teacher and am so glad to subscribe to your website. All the articles are so relevant and form a very interesting and enriching read. Looking forward to some more handy and practical tips for classroom management . Keep up the good work.

    • Michael Linsin November 17, 2015 at 7:49 am #

      Thank you, Natasha! Glad to hear it. Will do. 🙂


  6. Niki Park July 25, 2016 at 5:45 am #

    Your blog posts are wonderful. I accepted my first position as full-time teacher this summer. I was a long term substitute teacher for the last three months of the last school year, and I made plenty of mistakes – especially like the ones mentioned in this article. I found myself trying too hard to connect to challenging students last year. My students are third and fourth graders, and I get the impression that you teach high school.

    Do the same principles for building relationships apply to eight and nine year old children? Are there any differences?

    Thank you so much for sharing your expertise. I am reading and rereading as many of your posts as possible before school starts!

    • Michael Linsin July 25, 2016 at 8:19 am #

      Hi Niki,

      I’m glad you like the articles. Yes, the same principles apply. I taught elementary school for 24 years.


  7. Hemraj October 23, 2016 at 9:00 am #

    I came across this website just when I was in dire need of it. The funny thing is that I went through so many articles just in few hours that I kind of feel overwhelmed. Nonetheless, the tips you’ve given are amazing and I believe they’ll be effective as well. Looking forward to instill them in my classes.

    This website is nothing less than a boon for teachers like us. Such a good job, Mr. Michael. Anyway I’m all the way from India. Looking forward to learn more from the website.


    • Michael Linsin October 23, 2016 at 11:27 am #

      You’re welcome, Hemraj. So glad you found us.