Building Classroom Relationships Through Conversation Part 1

Building classroom relationships through conversations is a key tool in any teacher's strategy kit. Giving students a voice in the classroom can help with classroom management and student motivation. Read more in this blog post on the 2 Peas and a Dog website. #classroom #management #classroommanagement #classsroomcommunity

Building classroom relationships questions are something that I see regularly come up in my 18,000+ member Facebook Group #2ndaryELA.

Today’s blog post is written by Rebecca Gettelman who is a middle and high school teacher from the Midwest. She has been teaching for over eleven years. In this blog post, she shares her passion for getting students invested in their learning as an important part of her English Language Arts classroom.

“You just don’t understand.”

“You don’t know anything.”

“Why should I listen to you?”

“Yeah, sure.  Whatever.”

How many times have you heard these sentiments issue from the lips of the young ones you are entrusted with every day?  Depending on the age you teach and the questions you ask, probably more times than you care to think about.

But these are the same young people that you, as their teacher, are expected to develop a rapport with, to create a productive and respectful classroom environment for, and to teach core values to along with your academic curriculum.

So how do you go about it?  

How do you get your students to listen to what you have to say?  

How do you get them to be cooperating partners in a well-functioning classroom?  

How do you get them to respect you and what you tell them, and at least consider applying it to their own lives?

You listen to them.

If you want them to respect what you say, do, and think, one of the best ways is to let them see you respecting what they say, do, and think. Conversation is all-important.  

So let’s talk about the two basic kinds of situations in which you will have these conversations.

The Teachable Moment

Listening to your students in the unexpected moment is so important, but it can also be one of the hardest things to do.  Maybe a couple of students get into a shouting match or you discover them pushing and shoving in the hallway. While misbehavior and fighting is never acceptable, if you can be calm and collected enough to take the time and listen to what each has to say about what happened (once they are separated, of course), you can often gain their respect even as you assign consequences for their actions.

Don’t just assume you know why homework isn’t done. Yes, you gave the assignment over a week ago and yes, this student very well may have just blown it off, but by asking you give that student the benefit of the doubt. You often don’t know whose grandma is in the hospital or whose parents are going through a divorce. Listening lets you get to know what is really going on with your students.

The Constructed Conversation

Teachable moments are very powerful, but sometimes you want to bring up a particular topic in your class. Maybe it is the beginning of the year and classroom rules and expectations need to be established. Maybe you don’t want to wait until bullying becomes a problem before you address it. Maybe there is some discipline issue that you are confronting or are anticipating. Whatever the specifics, getting your students to talk about the issue and what should be done is so much more effective than just dictating what will happen.  

Often times your students will come up with very similar suggestions to what you would have dictated, but when these suggestions come from themselves or their classmates, students are much more likely to be willing to apply them. When they are the ones to set the consequences for turning in a paper late or suggest ways to address someone calling a classmate a nasty name, students have a much harder time claiming, “Not fair” or saying, “Yeah, like I’m ever going to do that.”

How To Construct These Conversations

These conversations can happen as actual class discussions. Depending on the topic and your group of students, you may have a whole-class discussion or divide the class into small groups and then have each group report back about what they discussed.  You might also want to ask your students to write about their thoughts and opinions on a given situation.

Check back next week as we dive into more detail about this topic.

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