4 minutes reading time (721 words)

How to Connect With Your Students and Understand Their Emotions


Most teachers are committed to creating strong bonds with their students, but it's a good idea to check the pulse of the teacher–class relationship every once in a while. Especially after vacations, when your students have spent a long time in a different set-up than during the school year, maybe grown a few inches, they might suddenly seem like new people!

Connecting with students is also essential when you don't spend many hours a week with them. The less time you spend together, the more critical the trusting relationship you build. Coming to class is so much more motivational – for everyone – when the students know they get to be with an adult who cares how they are doing. It's also easier for the teacher to focus on their job when they can sense the mood of the class and know why different students react in specific ways and what might be the best learning techniques for them.

Dealing with conflict situations becomes far more effective when the students feel they are heard and seen by their teacher and can confidently open up about their circumstances. Human beings learn best from their mistakes when they don't have to fear humiliation and exclusion. When students experience even the negatives supported by their teachers, they will be better at managing their emotions and noticing unconstructive habits later in life.

We've created a handy checklist to measure and improve your connection with your students. It's a great way to help rebuild team spirit after the vacations and to return whenever you need a bit of reconnecting!

- Learn the basics. If you don't yet know your students well, pay attention to their names, interests, hobbies, and special skills. It's the small things that make us feel welcome. Personal details also make learning to know a new group of people easier.

- It's a two-way road. Be an example by sharing something about you – what is your background, how did you become a teacher, and what do you most thrive for? Showing who you are as a person, not just a teacher, helps your students see you in a more personal light. If you already know each other well, say something about your holiday, weekend, or what you've been interested in lately. Without pushing too much of your personal boundaries, you can also talk about more challenging things you've experienced. Seeing an adult talk about negative emotions constructively shows the students that feelings such as sadness, uncertainty, and frustration are human and can be managed.

- Words aren't everything. When you listen, listen. These gestures can't be undervalued by a nod, a smile, or a hand on the shoulder. Ask questions and offer advice, but don't rush. Sometimes students aren't looking for prompt answers or action points; they need to think out loud and have someone share their thoughts.

- Be consistent. Situations and moods swift quickly, so have regular checks on your students. Use a few minutes at the beginning of the class to ask how your students' day has been and how their week is looking. Getting to the same tune makes your students more engaged in the lesson at hand and reminds them that they are with a safe adult. It's also a great way to keep track of your students' workload and stress levels. By asking about a concert or game, they've mentioned earlier; you're showing genuine interest.

- Create fun. Smile and use humor – a relaxed and jolly atmosphere makes relaxing easier and might lessen the urge to fool around. Step off the podium and gather your group in a circle. If time allows, have outside-curriculum activities or a class party. Taking a break from the daily schedule and creating shared moments of joy foster the team spirit and make school a more fun place to be.

- Keep your door open. Remember, as a teacher, you might be the only trusted adult for a student. The importance of listening and showing your support can be life-changing. Ask your students regularly how they are. Often that simple question is enough to make clear that you're interested in your students' wellbeing and value their thoughts and opinions. Still, it also gives the message that you're available. Showing that you are there when needed is the most important thing.

Henriikka Heinonen

Guest Writer
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