Building Relationships

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately on how technology can create and enhance relationships. Technology changed the ways I communicate with my students. When I first started teaching, Facebook was the main mode of communication that all my students used. They went to great efforts to try to find me and “friend” me. As technologies and preferences changed, students used Google to read a lot of my blog posts, my teaching portfolio, find me on Twitter, etc. They used the technologies available to them to learn more about me. In turn, I used technology in my classroom to learn more about my students:

Relationships are crucial. I’ve always considered myself very social and outgoing; friendships and connecting have been central to my well-being. I discovered building and maintaining relationships with my students was something that came easily to me, but also were often the difference maker between students coming to my classroom excited to learn – even if the content didn’t always thrill them – and coming to my classroom because they couldn’t skip school without their parents finding out. It seems so simple and yet it is often so difficult for people to get. There’s “never enough time”, there’s “too much content to cover”, whatever. If a student doesn’t know you care about him or her, there is no way he or she is ever going to do what you ask them to do at the level you’d like.

For example, you might ask your student to write a personal memoir. While he or she may complete the assignment satisfactorily, maybe even get an A as all her subjects and verbs agree, she’s chosen “juicy” words, and met the length requirement (that’s another pet peeve…I digress). But if she doesn’t TRUST you, she’s not going to share anything beyond the surface level with you. And that’s a lost opportunity to get to know a student as more than just a repository for your knowledge. It’s crucial to see our students as people with amazing ideas, complicated pasts, massive dreams, fears, and desires.

Technology can make it easier for us to connect. Technology helps students who often feel voiceless have a voice. It can make communicating much easier and faster than speaking face to face or hand writing a letter. But technology doesn’t have to be the only way we build relationships, connect, and grow with our students. The important piece for me is that we do SOMETHING to show our students why we went into teaching in the first place. I became a teacher because I wanted to share my passion and love for learning with others. I became a teacher because I love kids and learning from them. I became a teacher because to see them change, struggle, learn, adapt, create, and grow is the best feeling in the world.

Let’s hear it – how do you build relationships with your students? Does technology play a role? 

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