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Creating personal connections with students

By August 8, 2013June 13th, 2016No Comments

MSmaleAs educators around the Northern Hemisphere are returning to school campuses this month, this is a good time to think about the commitment to creating personal connections with students. We know from research that students having a strong bond with even one teacher can dramatically impact math and reading scores and can impact overall behavior and achievement as students move through their K-12 years.

Yet, in spite of knowing its importance, it’s easy for us as teachers to assume that, even if we don’t have a personal connection with a student, that someone else in the
building does. But how can we be sure? How can we make absolutely certain that
a student doesn’t “fall through the cracks” due to a lack of having access to a
trusted adult?

In a new ASCD publication, 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching, Bryan Goodwin and I created a research-based list of the 12 essential daily items for effective instruction.
One of the 12 is  “I interact meaningfully with every student.” We illustrate this in the book with the story of how one school addressed the issue of personal connections:

One group of teachers decided, before school started, to see how much their staff interacted on a personal level with students. They placed pictures of each student along a hallway and signed their names if they had a personal connection to the student. When the activity was over, they took a step back and noted those students whose pages were blank or only had one or two signatures. The teachers committed to making special efforts throughout the coming school year to connect with these students on an ongoing basis.

As your staff returns to school, consider a similar exercise to ensure that students have access to trusted adults to help them deal with personal and academic issues (and feel free to share ideas and examples here, in the comments section). You never know when such a connection will have a life-changing impact on a student.

Elizabeth Ross Hubbell is a principal consultant in the Center for Educator Effectiveness.

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.

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