Can Technology be used to Foster Healthy Student-Teacher Relationships?

Fostering healthy student-teacher relationships is one of the most effective ways to establish a positive climate in your classroom. When your words and actions demonstrate that you care, your students are more likely to put forth their best effort and look forward to your class. Aren’t you more likely to go out of your way to please an administrator who you feel values you and treats you with dignity and respect, as opposed to one that does not?

“…teachers who have created positive student–teacher relationships are more likely to have the above average effects on student achievement”. -John Hattie

One way to foster relationships is to show an interest in your students’ personal lives. To get to know your students ask about their vacations, their pets, and sports or hobbies that they enjoy. Use this information to engage your students in conversations.

Questionnaires or surveys can be used for interest inventories or even as a quick way to “check in” with students. You could use the Feedback activity in a Moodle course or use a Google Form, just as this high school teacher did:

Ask students to compose a reflection as a blog post. You can structure the prompt so that students share their feelings, concerns and questions about the class and about their lives outside the classroom.

  • “What’s going well in your life? What would you like to change/do-over/forget?”
  • “What was hard for you week? What came easily and took little effort on your part?”

Show the students that you care by responding with comments that include questions, paraphrasing, or the sharing of something about your life.

Students can participate in a forum discussion in a Moodle course, or in an Edmodo group.  If you think students might respond better to a more private scenario, you could post a non-graded essay question in Moodle for them to respond to, in which only you would see their responses.

Sometimes it is challenging to find time during class to visit with students. A quick email message might be a solution. Knowing that it is alright for them to contact you via email may open lines of communication. Also, students may be more comfortable sharing their thoughts digitally as opposed to face-to-face.

Technology should not replace face-to-face contact. You should still greet your students as they enter the classroom.

  • “How are you, John?”
  • “Glad you are here, Michelle.”
  • “Sophie, how was the game/your weekend/the match/the performance?”

It is important to watch for nonverbal and verbal signals from your students and respond by displaying a sense of caring, regardless of the student’s behavior.

  • “Are you all right?”
  • “How can I help?”

You can show empathy by telling a student that you understand that he was upset when he chose to hit another student because that student insulted his girlfriend. However this was not the best choice. While you don’t have to agree with students’ actions, you can let them know that you recognize their feelings behind their actions.

It is important to maintain that boundary between teacher and friend. I think private messaging (text messages, private chats) between a teacher and student should be avoided. One way text messages in which a teacher broadcasts reminders or information is acceptable. Digital communication methods that maintain a record of what was said by whom should be used.

I understand that it is sometimes hard to take the time required to build relationships while meeting all the other demands of being a teacher. However, the research shows it is imperative that we make time to show our students that we care. You can take advantage of all the communication opportunities that technology has to offer to help you efficiently and equitably foster healthy student/teacher relationships.

How are you using technology to build healthy relationships with your students?

References

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