Most people have fond memories of a favorite teacher. Whether it was a teacher who sparked an interest in a new subject, created a sense of belonging in the classroom, or listened and showed kindness, people remember the teachers who created a comfortable learning environment and truly made a difference in their lives.
Having a positive relationship with a teacher can impact how well a student learns. Studies have shown that a strong teacher-student relationship leads to higher academic engagement, higher grades, and fewer disruptive behaviors. In contrast, students who have a negative relationship with their teacher can feel stressed, and it could lead to poor academic performance and negatively impact a student’s social and emotional development.
Connections Academy® teacher Matthew Bullock has said of his teaching aspirations, “I needed [a teacher] who cared for me as a person. Those teachers are the teachers I strive to be today.”
A student’s comfort level also plays a role in their success. Does being comfortable help you learn? The research says it does, with students doing better in school academically when they feel safe and comfortable in their learning environment and with their teachers.
As a parent, you want your student to make a connection with their teachers so they feel comfortable and have a great school experience. You know your child is unique, and you hope that their teachers can really get to know them personally to see everything that makes them special, and that their teachers understand how to make a student feel valued.
The Collaborative Triad: Teachers, Students, and Parents
Connections Academy knows it takes a village to help a child reach their full potential and grow into a confident, independent, productive, and happy adult. In online school, the path to future success is built on a triad of collaboration and support between teachers, students, and parents. Each leg of the triad has to do its part throughout the student’s learning journey, connecting teachers and students for a positive learning experience and making students feel safe and secure—both physically and emotionally—in their learning environment so that they can achieve success.
If you are looking for ways for teachers to connect with students or how to make a student feel comfortable in the classroom talking to teachers, here are some tips that will help build strong teacher-student-parent relationships. Following these will also help students gain a sense of belonging in the classroom and build the self-confidence they will need to make lasting connections with their teachers—as well as others they will meet throughout their journey through life.
The Teacher’s Role
Online school teachers have a great opportunity to build authentic, lasting relationships with their students. Whereas a teacher in a brick-and-mortar school has to balance a class full of 25+ students, tending to all their needs at any given moment, online school teachers can spend more one-on-one time with each student. They can get to know the individual, and then tailor lessons based on their student’s individual needs. Parents also play a critical role in developing a positive student-teacher relationship. Here are three ways parents can create a comfortable environment for students to learn that encourages interaction with their teachers, which will lead to lasting, supportive connections:
1. Allow Your Teachers to Get to Know Your Student
Getting to know each student as the unique individual they are will go a long way in developing a positive relationship and building trust. Ask your student to share their likes and dislikes with their teacher. Teachers who know their student loves to play soccer, has a pet dog, likes to ride their bike, or prefers to read graphic novels will have more positive interactions with their student because they can make a personal connection about things that really matter to the them. It will also show students that the teacher really cares about them.
Sharing their interests can also help teachers build lessons that will be more effective to the individual student. It will also build trust, which leads students to being more open to going to their teachers when they have problems or may not understand a lesson. With trust, students will have less fear and more confidence to ask for help when they need it.
2. Encourage Peer-to-Peer Interactions
Students feel comfortable when they feel connected—and that goes beyond interactions with the teacher. Being connected to classmates will elevate the student’s experience—and support their social development. Find ways to encourage your child to participate in group discussions. Invite them to join online study sessions or after school clubs to meet other students.
“I think that peer interaction for students is incredibly important, and I incorporate those opportunities in my LiveLesson® sesions. I also offer daily office hours, which have become an additional opportunity for students to gather and hang out. I have a group of students who regularly attend office hours just to chat,” said Alissa Graunke, a teacher for Oregon Connections Academy.
3. Make a Safe Learning Environment
Being safe in the classroom is extremely important for both students and parents. Whether students attend school online or in a brick-and-mortar school, they need a learning environment where they can express themselves without fear of retaliation or being bullied.
Monitor the interactions that happen between your student, their classmates, and their teachers, and address any concerns about negative behavior that impacts your student. Talk to your student’s teacher about enforcing a zero policy for bullying. If your student approaches you about being bullied, take the accusations seriously, and reach out to the teacher and school and ask that steps be taken to address the problem.
The Parent’s Role
Parents work side-by-side Connections Academy teachers to support students and ensure they are making progress in their studies. They are also their student’s strongest advocates and biggest champions.
Help your student build important connections with teachers by encouraging them to seek out opportunities to interact with them. Make sure they attend classes and other teacher-led sessions. Teach them how to advocate for themselves by asking questions and asking for help when they need it. If they are shy or too nervous to talk to teachers or speak up in class, do some roleplay exercises with them where they can practice what they want to say. Offer positive words of encouragement to build their confidence and help them feel more comfortable.
You can also help them gain self-confidence and develop social skills by getting them involved in extracurricular clubs and activities. They typically have to interact with a coach or other trusted adult in those activities, which gives them practice for connecting with their teachers and other adults in their lives.
The Student’s Role
Students should take an active role in their learning, attending classes, and making progress with their lessons. Students can build a connection with teachers by participating in class, attending any planned extra sessions a time permits, and showing an interest in the subject matter. Encourage your student to ask their teacher about the subjects being taught—after all, that’s where their passion lies!
It’s also important for a student to be part of maintaining a safe classroom environment for everyone. Encourage them to be kind to peers, participate in group activities, and support others when they are sharing in class.
The Online School Experience
If you would like to learn more about how online school works and how you and your student can form a collaborative team with teachers, join a Connections Academy information session to learn if online school is right for you.