This post was originally published as part of Larry Ferlazzo’s column in Education Week Teacher on October 12, 2018
What are the best ways to build relationships with students?
Response From Lisa Westman
Lisa Westman is a writer, speaker, and consultant who works with school systems across the country to implement student-driven differentiation, standards-based learning, and instructional-coaching programs. She has over 15 years of experience as a teacher and an instructional coach specializing in differentiation. She is the author of Student-Driven Differentiation: 8 Steps to Harmonize Learning in the Classroom (Corwin). Connect with Lisa on Twitter: @lisa_westman:
One of the most staggering statistics I have read came from the 2016 National Student Voice Report published by Dr. Russell Quaglia and the Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations. After surveying over 38,000 students in grades 6-12, the researchers found that only 58% of students feel like their teachers respect them, while 99% of the teachers surveyed reported that they respect their students. This statistic really forced me to ask “why”?
In my book, Student-Driven Differentiation: 8 Steps to Harmonize Learning in the Classroom(Corwin) and outlined in the infographic below, I share my answer to “why” and identify the most crucial components of respectful student-teacher relationships.
In short, to ensure teachers and students both perceive relationships to be respectful, teachers must follow these three tenets of respectful relationships: be real, be consistent, and be a listener. And, because teachers are the adults in the relationship, the onus is on us to create these conditions.
Be real: teachers are human, yet, students often don’t see this side of us. It frequently amazes me how afraid teachers are of sharing personal information with students. Now, I am not talking about sharing all personal information (no, we don’t share information about our dating lives. Yes, we can share that we have lost pets or loved ones and experienced pain in our lives).
Be consistent: There is no doubt about the fact that some students are more difficult than others. And, there is no doubt that sometimes it requires more effort to respond to our more trying students with the same level of patience and understanding as the less difficult students. However, in order for respectful relationships to exist, we must take care to be consistent in our actions and reactions with all students.
Be a listener: Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People sums this tenet up best. He said, “see first to understand, then to be understood.” We must ask our students more questions and then ensure we listen and understand their answers.”