The relationship between you and your students is one of the most fundamental aspects of teaching, one that ultimately makes all the difference to the rate and effectiveness of their learning. If you find that any of your students are particularly inattentive - for example by not making full use of their school exercise books - then working on your teacher-student relationship is often an excellent place to start.
Equally, if you’re about to start a new term with a new class, it pays dividends to make sure you get off on the right foot. So here are a couple of the most crucial ways you can do that!
1. Learn their names
Yes, it might sound so obvious as to almost not be worth saying - but it definitely is! The simple act of ensuring you learn your students’ names can go a long, long way. You’ve almost certainly got a register of everyone’s names, so it’s always worth taking a little extra time to go through it. Quite simply, children will feel more valued if they feel you’re recognising them as individuals, and if they feel valued they’re more likely to be more engaged in the lesson, and listen to what you have to say.
2. Share your stories
Now, this one is a little bit more subjective because it sometimes involves revealing a little bit more about your personal life to your students, and there’s obviously a very delicate line to be trodden there. But as long as you’re careful in your judgement, drawing on your own personal experiences can be really helpful for inspiring your students.
It’s often easy for students to forget that every teacher was a student once too, so if they’re struggling with something in particular, it can sometimes be helpful to talk about a time when you experienced difficulty with something yourself, and explain the ways in which you approached the problem (and ultimately overcame it). Not only does this provide them with useful advice in and of itself, but it can help you to properly empathise with your students, showing them a genuine understanding of what things are like from their point of view.
Many students find this particularly encouraging, and no wonder. Empathy can help you overcome natural barriers like age gaps and perceived generational differences, making it a powerful motivator!
3. Send opportunities their way
For all of us at some point or another, learning can be hard. (That’s often as true for adults as it is for children!) It’s important for us to remember that as teachers, and especially to bear in mind that repeated struggles with certain topics or concepts can be highly discouraging, which can ultimately start to impact students’ motivation for further learning.
For that reason alone, it’s a good idea to always keep an eye out for opportunities to praise and uplift your students - and if there aren’t any, create some! Recognise when your students have performed well in a certain task or activity, and make sure to take the time to praise both individual students, and the class as a whole when they’ve collectively outperformed expectations. (Of course, take care not to overdo it, as most kids are a perceptive bunch, and they’re likely to pick up on when they’re being overly praised or patronised.)
And if you find that your class or individual students are going through a rough patch - it happens to all of us - rather than battling through it, sometimes it’s helpful to switch gears with games or practical tasks, especially if it helps students play to their strengths. For example, simple word searches or games of hangman can help primary school children to get to grips with longer spellings, whereas building simple bridges in small teams can help secondary school children to internalise more complex physics concepts.
Crucially, make sure you’re always open to your students teaching you things in turn. What are they experts on? In fact, that leads us to…
4. Show interest in interests
When you’re just getting to know your students, an effective way to bond with them is to take the time to try and recognise and understand their personal interests and hobbies. It’s not just a case of social niceties - learning about what your students do with their spare time can provide you with valuable insight into how they engage with their surroundings and the people around them. That in turn can help you get a feel for their strengths, areas for development, and how they feel about themselves - all of which is worth its weight in gold when you’re planning lessons.
Children who love reading might excel in literary tasks for example, whereas children who love building may be better at angles or maths. Students who love animals and the outdoors may be more interested in biology, and so on. Knowing these things about your students could well also be helpful for helping them play to their strengths, as we’ve outlined briefly above.
And of course, once again it all helps to reinforce the fact that you genuinely care about your students, helping them to feel valued, and therefore more motivated to succeed. When it comes right down to it, isn’t that what a teacher’s job is all about?
These are just a few general pointers; you may well be able to think of more specific techniques for your own class. And when it comes to keeping them equipped, that’s exactly where we can help here at EPSL. We provide a huge range of school exercise books, personalised exercise books, and supplementary reading material, so that you and your class have everything you need to stay organised, motivated, and productive.
With more than 45 years of experience behind us, we’re top of the class when it comes to producing resources and learning solutions for schools, so you can count on us to provide answers in as much or as little detail as you need. Feel free to give us a call on 01254 686 500!