Building meaningful relationships this school year

Remember your favorite teacher? We’d guess your fond memories have more to do with how that teacher made you feel rather than the subject matter. Those educators with the ability to check in with students often continue to inspire long after graduation. That’s why Along recently hosted two webinars on the topic of building relationships in the classroom. As the school year kicks off, with mounting assignments and overflowing extracurriculars, it’s more important than ever to begin creating those solid relationships.

Take a look below at the highlights from the Along webinars—we hope they inspire you to connect and engage with students from the start.

The important role relationships play in youth development

In our webinar called “Relationships Matter,” the Along team focuses on the fundamental role of developmental relationships and what exactly they look like. 

Every student has a unique challenge they struggle with. But, according to research by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, “Having at least one supportive and caring adult relationship is one of the strongest predictors of resilience to adverse life experiences in a child’s life.” Just one meaningful relationship can make a world of difference for a student. Now what if that relationship was found every day at school? It’s easy to see how transformative that would be.

So what is a good relationship?

Simply put, a good relationship with your student supports their development in life. Through positive connections, young people discover who they are, gain abilities to shape their own lives, and learn how to interact with and contribute to the world around them. 

How to get there

The Search Institute has spent years studying developmental relationships and their outcomes when applied in the classroom. Their framework is research-based and built upon these five elements:

  • Express Care – Show students they matter
  • Challenge Growth – Push students to keep getting better
  • Provide Support – Help students create and reach their goals
  • Share Power – Treat students with respect and treat them fairly
  • Expand Possibilities – Connect students with other people to help them grow

The Search Institute’s evidence proves that students supported by adults in these five areas are more likely to feel connected to school, to be motivated to work hard, and to earn higher grades. With this framework as a guide, educators can unlock a student’s potential. They can help students be more committed to and enjoy learning, to work hard to learn in school, to have a growth mindset, and to reach goals. 

Mindsets to kick off the school year

So how do we create the type of connections we’re talking about? That’s the topic of our second webinar, “How to Build in Connections at the Start of the School Year.” The Along team covers why the teacher-student connection is so important and asks the question, “What would happen if classrooms were centered around relationships?”

As you can imagine, the answer is that a relationship-centered classroom provides a positive environment for students and allows for stronger teacher-student connections. It all starts with the four learner mindsets, which are fundamental in supporting students’ academic behaviors, persistence, and performance on academic tasks. 

Here are the four learner mindsets to develop with your class from day one:

  • I belong in this learning community
  • I can succeed at this
  • My ability and competence grow with my effort
  • This work has value for me

The Along team and webinar participants shared some examples of how these mindsets can be successfully incorporated into the classroom. For instance, Along team member Susan, a former teacher, says, “I used to stand at the door each day to greet students warmly as they enter. If I didn’t know everyone’s name yet, I would use the practice as a way to learn students’ names by having them say their name and I would repeat it back with my greeting.” And Ben, a teacher from Texas, adds, “I give each student a Google slide. They get to add images that represent who they are, and then get two minutes to share it with the class.” 

Supporting educators as they build relationships 

Along was designed to make it easier for teachers to cultivate these learning mindsets and to develop those supportive relationships with all students. And, the purpose of using Along stretches beyond the classroom. The types of relationships Along builds are just as likely to impact students’ non-academic outcomes as well as their education goals.  

Along is a digital reflection tool that is designed to help educators make each student feel seen and understood. Along lets students share quick reflections one-on-one with their teacher so they can open up about who they are and what’s really on their mind—without peer pressure.

Educators get instant access to research-informed questions and ready-to-use resources, and students choose how they want to reflect—either over text, audio, or video messaging—on their own time and in their own way.

Returning to the question, “What would happen if classrooms were centered around relationships?” With Along, you can begin to find out.