Love Louder: Building Authentic Relationships with Students

Kendall LawsonBlog, Engage Better, Lead Better

In This Post:

  • The importance of making sure our students know they are loved.
  • Building relationships should be more than a buzzword–it should be authentic and meaningful.
  • Why you need to find others who will help you grow.
  • Encouragement to challenge practices and do what’s best for kids.

The word love seems to be a bit taboo in education. So much so that we are taught, or recommended, to not express our love for students. With that somewhat unwritten rule, in some ways I’ve felt like I’ve been breaking a rule for years because I truly love my students, and I make sure they know it.

My goals each year have been pretty much the same. They are to make sure my students know I love them, they are always welcome back in our classroom, and they will always be a part of my life. I have accomplished this goal for the past six years, and I haven’t yet seen a reason to change it. In fact, in 2020, I see all the more reason to dedicate my energy to truly loving my students.

We all have things and ideas we are passionate about, and likely there are people who you love. While we express ourselves differently, I would challenge you to let these passions and love spill into your professional persona.

Your students deserve to have a teacher who shows up authentically, so you have to be true to who you are. This is literally the core to my own self-care practice. Who says our personal and professional personas can’t blend together?

As a teacher of teenagers, I can’t think of a single reason to love them in silence. Click To Tweet

Authentically Building Relationships

Building relationships is absolutely the core of what we do. I’m proud that educators all over the world are shifting their mindsets to refocus [or focus] on building relationships with students.

While I don’t see building relationships as a trend, the word “relationships” is definitely a current buzzword in education. Because of this, I caution you to pay extra attention to the way you interact with students in order to build strong, authentic relationships.

Don’t fake these interactions, or try just to try. Spend the time, actually love them, and do the work to discover what is important in building individual relationships with your kids. Being authentic in this, both as a class and individually, will pay off ten-fold in every other aspect of your teaching practice.

There’s No “List” to Follow When Building Relationships

This would be the part when in many other posts you might find “6 ways to build relationships with students.” I can’t provide that.

Relationships are personal when they are real. If you don’t actually listen to the music or truly like the books, don’t pretend to. Most importantly, if you don’t generally (or genuinely) care about what happens in students’ lives on the weekends, then don’t act like you do.

Be you, no matter what. This is what students remember, value, and are inspired by.

I personally have found success in the way I connect with students. It’s the part of my teaching practice that I’m most confident in and most proud of. I envision a future where there is extra care and focus in the way we connect with students. In my opinion, with the severity of the social and emotional needs of today’s students, it really should be the foundation.

I am proud of my undergraduate experience and all that I learned, but I didn’t learn why or how to love my students. This isn’t something you can learn in a college textbook. I learned this from being in the classroom and seeing my amazing colleagues in action. Even more so, I learned this from connecting with other educators across the world and reflecting on my role in education and the work that I do.

Finding People Who Help You Grow

Find the group of people who think and feel like you, but also the group who pushes your thinking in a different direction. With anything, doing and saying things that go against the norm makes people uncomfortable. I would recommend that you don’t change or turn down whatever it is that goes against the grain. Here is where you reflect and help others do their own learning. Here is where you grow as a professional.

The lives and successes of our students are at stake as long as loving our students remains a taboo topic in education. Be an agent of change – to inspire the true change agents.

If we’re not bending the unwritten rules now, then when will we? As a teacher of teenagers, I can’t think of a single reason to love them in silence.

If this topic makes you uncomfortable (it’s alright if it does), start small. Continue loving your students in the way you are most comfortable.  For anyone who loves their students, wants students to know they are loved, or doesn’t understand the place love has in education, read Relentless by Hamish Brewer or offer it to a colleague. Let’s keep the conversation going, and love louder.

[scroll down to keep reading]

Master your classroom management with this online course.


Kendall Lawson is a 7th grade English Language Arts teacher at Kaneland Harter Middle School in Sugar Grove, Illinois. Over the past six years Kendall has worked to transform her classroom into a place where students can learn, excel, and grow at their own pace. Through this she has learned how critical it is to be a transparent, equitable, and authentic educator. She credits reflection, collaboration, and risk-taking as key components to help redefine her role as a Middle Level Educator.