relationship building (blocks)


“When we ask young people…how do you know a teacher or an adult in your school cares about you? The most frequent response was that the adult simply says hello and knows my name and greets me using my name.” –Bonnie Benard:

As fellow classroom educators can appreciate, I spend much of my personal, limited funds on anything school related to make me a “better” teacher. Here is a brief inventory of what I have spent my money on over the past couple of years…

  • H&M clearance items that can double for a teaching outfit and a night on the town
  • Friday happy hour appetizers and adult libations at Buffalo Wild Wings or Applebee’s
  • pencils to replace the pencils that my students have used or eaten
  • vaseline and eyeglasses to simulate sight impairment
  • cotton balls to simulate hearing impairment
  • scotch tape to simulate arthritis
  • squirt bottles to simulate classical conditioning
  • M&Ms to simulate operant conditioning
  • marbles and foil to represent a chocolate factory assembly line
  • historical fiction films that the school district refuses to purchase because they are not G-rated (#historyisnotg-rated)

 But I am continuously learning that the best way to be a “better” teacher and make a positive difference in students’ lives does not cost anything at all.

Stan Davis, creator of devoted his website to supporting young people who have been the victims of bullying behavior. Below is a word cloud Stan generated from his research that creatively highlights the most important teacher qualities from students’ perspectives…

“When we examine this word cloud and the actual student responses, we see that students…choose to build connections with teachers who they see as consistently accepting, welcoming, and emotionally positive toward them and their peers.”     -Stan Davis                                                                         

Below are everyday friendly reminders to support teachers who want to build healthy & positive relationships with their students

at the beginning of class…

  •  say hello to every student as they walk into your classroom and offer a genuine smile
  • before the bell rings, try to talk to a different student everyday about something other than school
  • start your class with an opening circle* to create a sense of community and provide a quick and easy way to learn something about your students
    • everyone stands in a circle and shares out a response to a topic that you choose. Possible topics include
      • how they are feeling on a scale of 1-10
      • a peak (high point) or a pit (low point) from today
      • a pet peeve
      • a food they are craving
      • most recent song they listened to
      • what they last posted on social media

during class…

  • Structures and Routines
    • mix up the seating arrangements once every few weeks to ensure that students are not only interacting with all of their peers, but also are seated in a place where they can engage with you
    • create opportunities for social support
      • establish a classroom meeting protocol to discuss sensitive topics that students are affected by
      • Piece Circle Prompts*
    • Implement formative and restorative policies as part of your behavior management plan
      • distinguish the negative or unwanted action from the student*
      • stay away from zero-tolerance policies which are punitive rather than restorative*
      • students need to be educated and learn why their behavior is unacceptable*
  • Activities

at the end of class…

  • create a closing circle* with all students. Possible closing topics for students to share-out include
    • “I used to think…now I think…” 
    • a wondering or a question
    • six-word take-away
      • students create a six-word poem/sentence about something they learned today

after class…

  • open door policy
    • create a symbol that you can post on your door so students know that you are available to support them
      • inspired by the “blue helping hands” from the documentary film, Cry for Help**

Please feel free to include specific and cost-free community building strategies that are effective in your classroom. I look forward to learning from you. Stay tuned for post #4 which highlights information about online media your students use daily.

Talk soon, Erika

Stan Davis (2015). Stop Bullying Now: Building Relationships. Retrieved December 17, 2015, from
*(G. Brion-Meisels, personal communication, September 2, 2015-October 5, 2015).
**(H. Lem, personal communication, December 4, 2015).

2 thoughts on “relationship building (blocks)

  1. Erika! Love the thoughts you’ve put up on this blog 🙂
    Agree that relationship building with our students is universally the most critical aspect of teaching. In Singapore, we often say – “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I got this quote on my Day 1 of teaching, but I only appreciated how much this rang true during my journey as a teacher.
    Looking forward to your next 2 posts!!


  2. Learning is not about teaching, it is the result of personal relationships. What kids remember is the effort and lengths you go to and how that makes them feel. #iCANHELP came from this same idea, kindness is a direct result of the relationships we build in our classes and on our campuses. If we build an inclusive campus climate and culture where kindness and understanding are the norm, you will see less of the online cyberbullying and harassment issues that keep popping up.

    Teacher involvement is a hard battle to fight as so many first year teachers are encouraged to just focus on teaching their classes and discouraged from going to events, hosting a club, or doing anything to build relationships with students outside of just teaching a subject. It is also tough for many non new teachers because of family commitments or becoming overcommitted because you are the only one who says yes to kids when they need someone to help. There is so much we can do to improve teaching and learning and much of it does not cost a dime.

    You can check out for some ideas. Also, check out Facebook’s new projected, InspirED – it’s amazing! Last, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence There are so many more, these are the ones I happen to be working on right now so I’ll stick with those.

    You are on the right track.


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