23 June 2022
Student-teacher relationships are important for many reasons. Let us have a look at some of the most important reasons why:
- There is simple research demonstrating that if students maintain positive relationships with their teachers, then students tend to significantly improve their academic performance. Furthermore, students are more engaged in their studies, their attendance is better, and academic grades are higher. Such students are also less likely to misbehave.
- If students and teachers have managed to build positive relationships, then students feel more comfortable and safer in the classroom. This factor also could not have been more important when it comes to online learning. If there is an understanding between the teacher and the student, the latter is more likely to log in for another class. But, if the student and the teacher have no such positive relationships, then the student is more likely to skip classes.
- Positive student-teacher relationships make it easier for teachers to communicate and interact with their parents. Involving parents in the educational process is important. When you know the child very well, it will be a lot easier for you to phone them and chat with them.
Student-Teacher Relationships: How to maintain them when teaching online?
How can we maintain positive relationships with students when we teach them online? The truth is that when the COVID pandemic struck many teachers around the globe were taken aback by the prospect of having to teach online. But now, two years later, many teachers have finally gotten used to the way online classes are taught. But still, many teachers are facing challenges when trying to build positive relationships with their students in online settings. Let us examine these challenges and suggest what we can do to overcome them.
When students arrive at class, some of them may arrive early. While getting ready for their class and pulling their books out of their bags they often strike up a conversation with their teachers. They can also chat with their classmates.
Now, let us imagine that we must conduct our class on a computer screen, online. When we teach online informal conversations can be extremely difficult and awkward if not impossible. The reason is simple: everybody will hear what you say to one student so private chats are a big challenge. The impossibility of having these informal conversations is a barrier to building positive student-teacher relationships.
What can one do in this situation? Well, the first thing that the teacher should do is to become more familiar with “waiting rooms” and “break-out rooms,” where the teacher can have one-on-one time with students. Becoming familiar with various chat features can also help.
Traditional classroom teaching methods do not work
When you are teaching in the traditional classroom, you engage students by means of various activities. These activities, for example, involve physical movement and teachers use them to captivate students’ attention and build positive relationships with students and trust. In a virtual setting, it is difficult to have such activities.
What can one do in this situation? The teacher may have to think about other engaging activities that can also be as engaging or rethink some of them to adapt them to the online setting.
Teaching in an online setting does not allow the teacher to be fully present in the classroom
The same goes for students. When we are in the classroom, we can have a good awareness of what is going on in the classroom. We can take cues from our students’ body language, the questioning expressions on their faces, and many other details that help the teacher be present in the classroom.
However, classroom management is more of a challenge when it comes to online learning. First, in many cases, teachers are not able to see everyone’s face in the classroom when they share their screens or deliver a lecture. Some students may also be reluctant to turn their screens on. Likewise, both teachers and students may have genuine problems with their equipment be it a broken microphone or a lost video.
It is also difficult to captivate students’ attention when we teach them online. First, students may find that their computers are distracting. Secondly, if a child does not have a suitable learning environment at home – for example, there are all sorts of loud noises, parents talking loudly, his sibling trying to get him to play – all these factors can obviously affect the child’s learning in a negative way.
So, what can we do to make sure that this challenge does not prevent teachers and students from maintaining productive and positive relationships?
First, teachers may want to conduct their class in a grid format – so that they can see everyone. Each learning platform should have such an option. Secondly, teachers should strive to incorporate as much interactivity in their classes as possible to make sure students are engaged to the full and have no time for distractions.
Now that we have explored the potential challenges that teachers may encounter when building positive and productive relationships with students, let us have a look at some of the strategies to build these relationships when teaching online.
- Find time to connect with students. As a teacher in charge of online classes, you can allocate time to meet them one by one before the start of the class. Ask them how they are doing, and acknowledge the extra challenges that online learning can pose. Support your students and praise them. These one-on-one meetings do not have to be long. 5 minutes for each meeting should be enough.
- Allow students to have some downtime in the break-out rooms so they can communicate with one another. Learning online and sitting for several hours in front of a computer screen may be exhausting. So, allowing students to interact with one another without monitoring them can help a lot.
- Incorporate online games. There are many exciting games that teachers can use when teaching online classes. Not only do these games allow teachers to build positive relationships, but they also help teachers engage students and captivate their attention. Some of the games are “Bamboozle” and “Kahoot.”
- Constantly praise and appreciate what your students are doing. Teachers need to be able to recognize that learning online requires extra effort on the part of their students and they should constantly be praising and appreciating this effort. Celebrate your students’ achievements, and write them an email with praise. Be empathetic, and make sure that students feel like they are being listened to and acknowledged.
- Make sure that each student is engaged, and that nobody is left out. Honestly, some students can be more talkative and enthusiastic about class than others. Although it may feel tempting to allow them to speak all the time, do not forget to include other students. To make sure that each student can speak, consider using a Google timer.
- Monitor students and do not leave them alone in break-out rooms for extended periods of time. When giving your students a task, make sure that they know that you are ready to help them and answer any questions that they may have. If you send them to breakout rooms, check in on them.
- Talk to the students’ parents more often. When learning online, students need the support of both teachers and their parents. Be sure to make use of the variety of school apps available. In my other articles on our Shiminly blog, I have discussed the various tactics that teachers can employ to build positive relationships with students’ parents including educational Bootcamp. Not only do these apps enable parents to instantly message their teachers, but they also offer the opportunity of having a more secure and private communication.
- Do not be too hard on yourself and make sure you have enough rest. Online teaching is hard – not only do you have to teach, but you must support your students throughout the period of online learning. To be able to support them well and maintain positive relationships with them, you need to make sure that your own mental health is in good condition. So, make sure that you take care of it too.
Teaching online may be a difficult and challenging experience both for teachers and students. But the good news is that it does not have to be this way. With the right approach, practice and perseverance online classes can be fun and effective and relationships between teachers and students can be as strong as they were in the traditional classroom.
Russ Gadzhiev obtained his Ph.D. in history and politics from the University of Melbourne. He also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia who effectively communicates with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. His background includes teaching, mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish and Portuguese.