Building Relationships with ALL Students: Tips for Connecting with Quiet or Hard-to-Reach Students

Take a moment and scroll through your students in your mind.  Are there a few kids you forgot?  Maybe a couple of girls you keep mixing up?  Or one student who already stands out due to misbehaviors?  If you have students who fit into any of these categories, that’s a good alert that you don’t yet have a positive relationship with that student.  While some say this isn’t necessary, it is unlikely that students will be open to learning from you if they don’t feel a connection to you.  So for the quiet kids you keep forgetting about or the one who seems to be against you at every turn, here are some strategies to build that relationship so that they can get the most out of your class.

  • Talk to them individually outside of class.  This seems pretty straight-forward, but in practice it can be pretty hard to think of things to talk about, find the kids outside of class, and fit in all the kids you may want to talk to.  To make this easier, choose 2-3 students you want to target over the next 2 weeks and just focus on them.  To make things simple, start by thanking them for something positive they did in class or just asking them how they like your class, what they like and dislike about school, what they like in a teacher, etc.  This shows them you care about their opinion and want their feedback.  It also ensures you don’t look like you’re trying to be buddy-buddy or accidentally get into an overly personal conversation.   One more tip, you want to have these conversations away from other students.  If a student isn’t a fan of yours yet and you try to talk to them when other kids are around, they may respond to you differently knowing their friends are watching.


  • Stay consistent in the classroom.  If there are students who are consistently not meeting your expectations in your classroom, it can be tempting to start letting things slide so as not to be the bad guy or set them off.  The opposite will result, though, if your consequences start being unpredictable because that translates to unfair in the eyes of your students.  They’ll respect you more and so be more open to a positive relationship with you, if they can trust how your class and your expectations work.


  • Contact their parents for something positive.  Whether a note, e-mail, or phone call, all kids like praise.  Just be sure it’s genuine and specific.  For quiet students, this can work really well, especially if they seem too shy to talk much when you try to start conversation.  Depending on the student, though, be careful how public this is.  If a student doesn’t like you and you announce in front of his 8th grade peers that he did a great job and you’re going to call his parents and tell them, he’s more likely to get embarrassed and reject the praise which may make things worse.


  • Pair up with a respected colleague.  If you need to have a conversation with a student about their behavior in class, a great strategy can be asking a well-respected colleague to help facilitate the conversation.  If the student already has a positive relationship with this person, they are more likely to respond positively and openly to a conversation that includes that person than if you talk to them on your own.


  • Take an interest.  If a student has Nascar on his binder or is on the volleyball team, ask him or her about it.  If they’re trying out for the choir, wish them luck.  Better yet, if you are able, stop by a practice, game, or performance and show your support.  They’ll definitely notice and appreciate it!

What other ways do you connect with your kiddos?

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