The strategies that educators use to foster positive relationships with their students has been transformed over the past two years. Along was honored to participate in the recent webinar, “SEL Mindsets and Practices to #KnowEachStudent,” with speakers from Educating All Learners Alliance (EALA) and Understood to discuss ways that educators and students can create a sense of belonging in the classroom each and every day.
At the outset of the webinar, the education experts shared why it is important to build relationships with students. Treah Hutchings, InnovateEDU’s Special Education Project Manager for EALA, explained that understanding the unique needs of each student can help educators create better learning environments for all students while also allowing space in the classroom for honesty, empathy, and fun.
Charlie Doolittle, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Understood, added that relationship building is particularly important for kids with learning differences. “The majority of these kids end up in a general ed classroom, and if there isn’t inclusion, they can struggle,” he said. “Teaching social emotional skills can help all kids better manage daily challenges and make informed decisions.”
Educators can best support students in their classroom if they approach relationship building with the proper mindset. As Hutchings noted, there are many different aspects to everyone’s personality. “Your experiences impact your identity and your identity impacts your experiences. Identities are dynamic and not set in stone,” she explained. “This affects students and teachers in the classroom.”
Susan Menkel, Along’s Learning and Development Manager, added that educators should think about who they are and how that plays out in the classroom. “To see our students, we need to see ourselves,” she concluded.
The webinar panelists also shared specific practices that have helped them to #knoweachstudent. Hutchings emphasized that she uses conversations as a “springboard to teach students that their unique identity is a strength.” Menkel suggested that educators allow students to provide honest feedback at the end of a lesson so that educators can then make adjustments for improvement.
And, Doolittle noted that it’s critical to figure out what kids are trying to tell you through their behavior, which is of particular importance for kids with learning differences. “Be intentional about using social emotional learning and infusing it into everything you do.”
Additional information about social emotional learning and teacher mindsets can be found on the EALA and Understood web sites. For example, EALA recently published a case study featuring eighth grade teacher Laura Tollis, whose primary focus is supporting students with special needs. She offers five tools and activities that have helped her to connect with students and create a sense of belonging. Her actionable tips emphasize the need for flexibility and the need to constantly adapt and accommodate the individual students within her classroom.
To learn more about strategies for creating positive teacher-student relationships, watch the full webinar here.