As someone who has spent many years working in schools, a couple of those as a teacher, I will tell you the shocking truth … teachers do have favorite students. There, I said it. That doesn’t mean that other students are treated poorly and the favorites get special treatment, but it can give them a leg up.
The “favorite” student isn’t necessarily the one who is the brightest, or the most serious … it’s most often the one who is friendly and memorable, the one who stops by to say hi. When you teach over 100 students a day (as most high school teachers do) it can be hard to remember each student on a personal level. Teachers want to build relationships with students so the ones who make an effort to connect stand out.
Having a good working relationship with teachers [coaches, other school staff members] has many advantages for students. Aside from all the wonderful protective factors young people get by having relationships with trusted adults here are some benefits more specific to school.
- More attention and help in class and out of class.
- Connections with community members that can help them learn more about a profession and potentially get an internship or job.
- Flexibility making up work if they miss school.
- Letters of recommendation for colleges, scholarships and jobs.
- Nominations for awards.
- Notice if a student is struggling or having person problems. *When I was working as a school counselor I cannot tell you how many students were struggling with BIG issues that I would never have learned about if it hadn’t been for an observant teacher that had a good relationship with that student.
- Increased confidence dealing with adults.
- More independence.
Sounds pretty good right? So, how does a student go about developing a relationship with a teacher? Here are some things every young person can do to connect with their teachers. Keep in mind this isn’t really an exact step-by-step or how-to. When teens have a teacher, coach or some other adult that they like and respect most of this will come naturally.
The first day.
- Smile and say hello as you enter class.
- Smile and make eye contact with your teacher, especially when they call your name.
The first week.
- Continue behaviors from Day 1
- Have a short conversation before or after class either about the class or some other interest you may have in common (notice what personal items the teacher has in the room or what extracurricular responsibilities they have as clues).
All year long.
- Pay attention in class and turn in your work. Even if you aren’t particularly interested in the topic eye contact with the teacher goes a long way.
- If you have questions about the material, ask. If you are uncomfortable asking in front of the entire class wait until everyone is working or ask after class.
- Participate in class … maybe even stretch yourself a little beyond your comfort level.
- If you have an issue with something in class (another student, your grade) go directly to your teacher to see what you can work out –parents should be a backup, not a first response.
- Wave or stop in just to say “hi” when the teacher is in their room without a class.
- Be yourself!
When you are no longer in their class.
- Say hello when you see them.
- Give them updates on how you are doing.
Are you getting my “be friendly” vibe here?
Now, I’m not suggesting that teens do this with every teacher they have. It’s important to be polite to all of their teachers, but let’s face it, they aren’t going to like some of them and that’s ok. Young people should find the teachers that they naturally gravitate to, probably because of a similar personality or shared interest.
I am amazed at the number of high school students that are afraid to approach their teachers, or nearly any adult for that matter. So, encourage your young adult to reach out and make a connection.
I’d love to hear from you!
Did you have a teacher or coach that was especially influential? How did you develop that relationship?
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