I got this interesting question from a new teacher, and it got me thinking about it. Beyond the normal, "Be fair, even-handed, humorous, flexible..." and avoiding the pitfalls of "wanting" to be "liked" by your students, what do seasoned teachers do to bond with their students?
Wanting to be "liked" by your students is a black hole and makes for a chaotic classroom full of entitled brats. It should not be a goal, but a by-product of great teaching and strong classroom management.
I asked in an art teacher's forum, "What "little" things, extras, unique stuff do you do proactively, that you feel have a positive impact on your classroom, learning environment, level of respect, and do in fact have kids connecting with you?
For me there are three things I can point to:
1. I do recognize my students on their birthdays with a small trifle of a gift (Sticker, arty pencil, whatever I can get in bulk for free or really cheap) and the summer birthdays get on the last day of school. They all like being remembered.
2. When we are in "working mode," and the bulk of the period is focused on projects, I put on a quiet but popular playlist of music and sit with my students to chat about "what's going on" and try to make some personal connections. I ask about recent vacations, favorite subjects, hobbies, etc.
3. I never reply to a student's question with, "because I said so." Respect is a two way street, if you want it, you have to give it. This is why my classroom rules also include the reasons why they are rules. I remind them often that the art room is a safe oasis in school.
These were some words of wisdom other teachers replied with.
Blair: I teach Jr. high. I try to go to games and performances of my students. I have made signs at games. Harder to do now that I have little ones myself, but they like seeing fans in the stands. I do a beginning of school activity. I write a letter to them about me and read it to them and have them write a letter to only me about them. I ask questions about their interests, family, friends, music, pets, art background, etc. I let them know I will be the only one reading it and whatever they want to share big or small is up to them. I also take this information to help with project themes for the class.
Sheryl: I compliment a new haircut, ask how they are feeling, ask if they miss my class and let them know I missed them. I totally fuss over them and how tall they got over the summer.
Deayna: Learn their names the first week. Make eye contact, smile and greet them by name as they enter. This initial personalization opens the door for that connection (I've often heard comments on how some teachers still don't know their name by the end of their class).
Stephanie: Greeting them daily. Also when they are upset, simply ask if they are okay and if they need a few minutes outside or to the bathroom to get themselves together. If they got in trouble in another class I reminded them I am different and my class is a new start. Showing empathy and listening to them is everything!
Jennifer: Express a sincere interest in what they are interested in. I know it's hard for some adults to listen to a kid talk obsessively about Pokemon or some band you've never heard of, or joke about memes, but I think taking the time to listen, express interest, try to decode' their generational in jokes, and learn about kid/teen things you don't 'get' really shows them you don't dismiss them as 'kids these days'. Also, anything can be interesting if you act interested; we try to teach this to kids who are in a learning setting, and by expressing interest in their interests, we can not only connect with them, but set an example of what it means to be an engaged and interested person.
Ian: I think they like that I talk with them like they are adults. I see some high school teachers act very authoritarian and many students don't respond well to that. Just talk to them like they are people.
In all of this I see the thread of "respect" as a theme. When we respect them, they respect us. If you do something special that others may find helpful, please comment below.