Building Relationships With Students

Relationships with our students are key. As educators, we know this is vital to student success. Research tells us there is a positive correlation between student engagement and academic success. The start of a new school year presents teachers with an opportunity to meet new students and learn more about them as the year progresses. In traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms, there are tried and true strategies we’ve been using for years. Without question, the past eighteen months has been a challenge for students, families, and educators, but educators (and their students) rose to meet the challenge they faced.

In Chapter 5 of The Interactive Class by Joe and Kristin Merrill, one of the things that stuck with me the most was this: “Connecting with students emotionally, rather than just cognitively, positively impacts your ability to teach students” (p. 45).

This is always true, but now, more than ever, this concept resonates. The question I often hear is HOW? How can I form these connections with the current restrictions that affect our ability to interact with students? How can I do this while teaching hybrid or remotely?

Laying the foundation for this starts the first day but builds throughout the year.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Convert your getting-to-know-you questionnaire to a digital format and use that information to make notes about the students that help you remember tidbits your students shared. Use those tidbits to start conversations, help connect students with their peers who have shared interests, and provide more specific feedback by drawing connections to something they will relate to.
  • Conduct SEL check-ins weekly or biweekly just to see how your students are doing.
  •  Provide meaningful feedback to students using multiple forms of delivery. Leaving personalized, specific comments on tasks helps your students know that you are paying attention to what they’re submitting, and you’re offering suggestions that are unique to the student. If your learning management system offers the opportunity to provide audio or video feedback, this is quick for the teacher and so meaningful for the students.

Time is the biggest challenge for any teacher who struggles to meet all of the curricular demands, be the best teacher for their students, and still find some semblance of a work-life balance. But spending a little bit of time on building a solid foundation with students pays big dividends in the long run with increased student engagement and achievement.

Read more from Dianna in her Keep Indiana Learning blog post, Using Your LMS to Strengthen Relationships with Students.


  • Dianna Knox is the Technology Instructional Specialist for Clay Community Schools in Brazil, Indiana. She is in her fourth year in this position but also has a background in Spanish, English, Communications, and Theatre. She worked on implementing blended learning and flipped lessons as well as many other tech tools into her daily lessons. In transitioning to the role in instructional technology she has grown her love for collaboration, blended learning, all things Google, and helping teachers get to their "a-ha" moment with technology integration. Dianna is a board member for Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators (HECC) and is a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, Indiana Connected Educators, and ISTE. Currently, she is pursuing an M.Ed in Learning and Technology from WGU-Indiana and is focusing on her capstone project which will help teachers create relationships with students in online and blended learning environments using Canvas (or their LMS of choice). She loves learning new skills and helping others.

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