by Nyasia Burgos, AmeriCorps member serving on the DePuy Synthes team with Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School
Everyone agrees that strong relationships with students is a very important component in order to have a successful year of service. Without having a strong connection with your students, how exactly will you build a relationship with each one and become a strong mentor in their lives? You won’t.
At the start of my service year I knew early on that building relationships with my students would develop in the same ways it has with others in my life- by being genuine and consistent. No relationship will flourish without any care and being consistent is key. Students expect consistency from adults, and even if the student’s moods are not consistent, it is important that our interactions with them are. This idea is very important in order to foster a strong mentoring connection.
Here are my top 3 ways to build relationships with students:
1) Sit with them during lunch.
Students love to have us at their lunch tables. This is one time during the day where there is nothing to focus on or teach. This is time to get to know one another without having to tell the students to get back on track or “tell me later.” Having lunch with students shows them that you are trading in your time off to spend time to get to know them instead and are investing your time in them, not only academically, but personally.
2) Ask about their weekend.
Students enjoy chatting about their weekend. Asking how their weekend was shows that you are interested in knowing about their life outside of school. This seemingly simple question can open up the most quiet student.
I once asked a student of mine named Michael*, who is relatively quiet, how his weekend was. Michael's* face lit up with joy as he gave me the run-down of his weekend from Friday afternoon to Sunday night. That was the first full-blown conversation that I ever had with Michael* and from that day on he became more open with me.
3) Follow up.
When a student seems to be having an off day or had an issue earlier on, I always make it a priority to check in with them a couple of times to make sure they are now in a better space, mentally and emotionally. Following up with student’s shows your concern for them and their long-term happiness.
Connecting with students may come naturally for some and may be more of a challenge for others. My advice is to approach students with an open heart and an open mind. Our students are excited to have us with them (even if some don’t always show it), and it is up to us to give our students the consistency that they deserve.