Student Relationships: Let Them Connect with You

Kristen KoppersBlog, Connect Better, Engage Better, Manage Better


  • Forming connections with students can be difficult but is valuable.
  • Be patient. Not all students, especially at the high school level, open up easily.
  • Share a little bit about yourself throughout the year to form those connections.
  • Take interest in your students’ lives.

Ever hear of the saying, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”?  George Bernard Shaw’s simple phrase soon became a negative connotation towards educators across the nation. This phrase is often said to criticize educators in their own profession. But, we, as educators, know that the phrase is just a simple way of acknowledging the hard work we do as educators every day. 

In twenty years, I have gone from being passionate about teaching to wondering if I made the right choice. Many times I just want to throw up my hands and give up. Yes, I said it. I just want to walk away from it all and start over. Before you make that judgment against me, let me explain.

What many do not understand is that teaching is one of the hardest careers to be successful in. An educator can have anywhere from 32 students all day to 150 throughout the day. Each of those students have different levels of education. They come from different backgrounds. They have different influences throughout their lives. And they may have different learning abilities. Ironically, this is not the hardest part of teaching. The hardest part of teaching is to connect with our students each day of each year. 

Connect with Students

This may seem easy (and it might well be for some). But, for others, it is not as easy as it seems. Not all teachers are born to be extroverts. We may like to teach. We may like to have students have that “ah-ha” moment. But connecting with students, personally, 1 on 1, is difficult. 

I want my students to know me not only as their teacher but as a person. Click To Tweet

It’s easier for elementary teachers to create that student/teacher bond during the year. Smaller kids love to give hugs and make drawings for the teacher to hang around the room. When they see their masterpiece, their eyes are wide with pride. When the students leave for the day, that student is still beaming with excitement and hugs the teacher again. Junior high school is a bit different. There are no hugs but the gleam in a student’s eye seeing their work on the wall still has that same feeling as the elementary student years before. Students love to invite their teachers to their games, performances, and even share their weekend plans. Day in and day out, junior high teachers learn about their students’ likes, dislikes, and extracurricular activities. 

High school students are a bit different. They have a harder shell around them. They have learned how to not be so transparent to others. There are no hugs, no drawings hung up, and no sharing of weekend plans. 

For 175 days, I teach approximately 32 students for forty minutes, five and a half periods a day. In that time, I can make a difference to about 145 students. However, high school students like to keep to themselves. 

How do we get students to open up? Before I begin, let me state that not all high school students are like the ones mentioned above. There are quite a few teachers who have an automatic bond with students. But what about the students that do not want to open up to teachers? One word: patience. 

We cannot expect all students to want that hug or expect them to see their drawings hung up in the classroom; there are times that we cannot expect that all students want to share their weekend plans. It takes time and trust. 

Connect by Sharing

I want my students to know me not only as their teacher but as a person. I know it seems weird to read this; in fact, it seems weird for me to write it. But when you think about it, you know it’s true. 

What I find helpful is to let the students know who I am as a teacher. While not giving too much personal information to them, they know I am married, have a child, have been an educator for 20 years, and that I am 21 (wink, wink). They know I have a brother and that my dad died from cancer. Just to clarify all this information was not given at once. In fact, only parts of my life were mentioned during different portions of lessons. 

I do not just come in and tell students about my life. During the college unit with my seniors, I explained the importance of choosing the right college (if that is what they want to do after high school). I did not have the opportunity or chance to talk with someone at my own high school about colleges, which is why I had to take additional courses. Because they have the opportunity to share college or after high school plans within the school, I encourage them to use any resources available to them. 

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During lessons, it’s easy to share information about my own life. However, as easy as it is to share information, there are times that teachers go too far with personal information. 

The other day, one of my seniors walked into my classroom (just like he always does) wearing his ear pods listening to his music. He doesn’t participate in class and seems to just blend in with the classroom in the back. I wanted to make sure I made that personal connection with him. The next day as he came down the hall listening to his music, I stopped him before he entered my classroom. I asked him how his basketball game was this past weekend. He stopped and looked surprised. I could not imagine what was going through his head, but his cheeks went up as he smiled under his mask. He said they didn’t do too well and lost both of their games and walked into the room. That brief moment of conversation made a difference in his day. 

Twin Day during Homecoming Week senior year of high school

Simple questions about what movies I like to watch, what books interest me, what bands I like (or don’t like), or even my favorite color, starts a conversation connecting with students. 

When those connections are made, they even want to dress the same as you for Homecoming Week. Hey! It could happen.

Trust me when I say that the relationships you make in the classroom will last. Seventeen years ago I entered the classroom, at the school I am at now as a new teacher; this year that same student I saw my first year was now a first-year teacher who I taught. Since then, many students have walked into and out of my classroom. To this day, I continue to keep in touch with many of them. Relationships do count—even if it’s just for a moment.

About Kristen Koppers

Kristen is a blogger, presenter, self-published author, and high school educator as well as an adjunct teacher at the local junior college. She has been teaching for more than fifteen years and is currently teaching high school English in Illinois. She is a Google Certified Educator and National Board Certified Teacher. Kristen has a master’s degree in English and a second in Education Administration.

Kristen wrote the book Differentiated Instruction the Teacher Profession as a way to share her ideas of how to use Differentiated Instruction inside the classroom. As an educator, it is important to find innovative ways to meet the needs of her students. Kristen is often on Twitter (@Mrs_Koppers) participating in chats and collaborating with other educators. It’s easy to share DI ideas on Twitter (#DITeaching).

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