Intentional Relationship Building

Relationships with students, especially “difficult” students, don’t just happen. It takes purpose and design.



This month as we go deeper into creating an intentional classroom, we explore how we intentionally create the kind of relationships we want with students. Building relationships are a focus at many schools and for good reason.


We know that positive relationships with students make for more effective learning. According to Hattie’s visible learning research, teacher-student relationships have an effect size of 0.72, making it one of the most effective classroom practices. Plus, we all want to have a positive relationship with our students. We certainly don’t want rocky ones. But we also know it doesn’t happen automatically. So just like everything else in your classroom, you have to create and set intentions to build those critical relationships.


Below I’ve included some examples to help you get started with creating your intentional classroom.


Know their names

Students want to know you see them for who they are. That means knowing their names and addressing them by their names.


Set an intention:

I will memorize all my students’ names no later than the third day of school.


Know their interests

In order to better engage students in both conversation and content, it helps to know what they are actually interested in. This can be hard with large classes, but it is possible to do if you plan for it.


Set an intention:

I will survey my students no later than the second week of school on their interests (this could be a reading survey).


Ask questions

Another great way to learn about your students and build relationships is to ask questions. Be genuine. Be yourself. Get to know your students.


Set an intention.

I’m going to ask questions about my students’ lives/experiences every day.

I’m going ask questions before I rush to judgment.


Be empathetic

Put yourself in their shoes and realize where they are coming from. Don’t jump to conclusions or rush to judgment.


Set an intention.

I will investigate and ask questions before I discipline a student.

I am going to practice empathy every day – with every student.


Do your best for all your students – and I mean all of them

I recently saw Cornelius Minor speak, and it really resonated with me. He talked about the ideologies we create that stop us from creating equity in our classrooms. We excuse some of the things we do by saying students don’t deserve it because they misbehaved, were late, fill in the blank… or students should already know it… or that they should be grateful if we give them a break or help them out. But that’s not how it should be. All our students deserve our best, it’s our job to teach them what they don’t know, and my helping a student doesn’t mean they owe me devotion.


Set an intention.

I will do my best every day to create a classroom of equity, where I respect every child, and give them my best without pre-requisites.


These are just some ways to begin your journey to creating intentional relationships. How will you intentionally build relationships with your students? You may want to have specific goals for individual students. What works for one student may not work for another student.


I’d love to hear some of your intentions! Please share!

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