Educators have long known the importance of connections in the classroom. The last several years have emphasized just how valuable they really are. But there are barriers. Finding both the time and opportunity to get to know each student can seem daunting.
Last week, Along hosted a webinar with CASEL about the importance of creating connections and about how educators are finding the time and resources to prioritize relationship building. Panelists William Ruffin II, Executive Director of Equity and Engagement, Rochester Public Schools, Natalia Benjamin, Educator, Minnesota Teacher of the Year 2021–22, and Desiree Stanley, Senior Content Manager, Along, shared their expertise and experience creating the building blocks of powerful teacher-student relationships.
After inviting attendees and panelists to share their answers to an Along reflection question, “What traditions matter to you? Why are they important?,” moderator Susan Menkel emphasized the takeaway that “just by answering a simple question, we learned a lot about each other. That’s the power of connections, and it can start small and build throughout the school year.”
In response to a question about how a teacher knows that relationships are being built in the classroom, Benjamin spoke about seeing signs that students are willing to take risks, speak in class, and share their thoughts either in the context of community building activities, or in academic tasks. “Every time you build a relationship you are putting in an investment in your students that will create dividends over time,” said Benjamin.
Ruffin spoke about the role he sees using a tool like Along has in school districts and emphasized the importance of creating space to listen to students. He explained, “You have to open the door for students for them to choose to walk through when they are ready.”
Stanley discussed the research behind Along’s content library. A “seemingly simple” question like “What traditions matter to you?” allows students to decide how much information they wish to share with their teacher. They may respond that Friday pizza night is an important tradition. Or, they may provide a more detailed answer, sharing that it’s particularly nice to have pizza on Fridays with their family because one of their parents has been traveling for work lately. Giving students the power of deciding how much to share is important in building relationships.
Building a culture of connection in your classroom this school year can start with something simple – a smile, a question, a greeting at the door. With Along you can begin creating authentic teacher-student connections that transform the school environment.