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Classroom Management Strategies: Prioritizing Student Relationships

Jan 16, 2024
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The key to classroom management is creating meaningful relationships with students. Though this may seem like a no-brainer, many educators still struggle with making their classroom a safe and welcoming environment for students. Teachers are constantly bogged down by data, assessments, standardized testing, and even the vastness of their own content, leaving little time to focus on classroom management. Making time for classroom management is not always easy, and for many educators, it can often feel like the part of the job they receive the least amount of training on.

And, classroom management looks very different at the high school level than an elementary environment. Rather than focusing on raising hands and lining up quickly and quietly, high school classroom management is much more about getting students to actually engage (and stay awake).

How do we instill a passion for lifelong learning when students are dealing with teenage angst and the constant need to defy authority? Creating meaningful relationships with high school students can help all other aspects of high school classroom management fall into place without much coaxing. In this article, we will explore some practical tips for teachers to establish meaningful connections with students and create a positive and engaging classroom environment.

Get to Know Your Students Individually

Try to take into account the different reasons that students end up in your classroom. Maybe they chose to take your class, maybe they require it for graduation, or maybe they have to be present in order to avoid truancy consequences. In any case, all students have a thirst for knowledge—even if that knowledge is not directly related to the content being taught.

Students are always more engaged in learning when they understand that it is important to their future success. By getting to know each of your students individually (which can be difficult depending on the class size), you will be able to find out their learning styles and interests. Doing this will help you personalize lessons for many of your students and give them a sense of ownership in the education process. It creates a very positive atmosphere for learning.

Here are some ideas to get to know your students on an individual level:

Icebreaker Activities

Commence the school year with icebreaker activities that go beyond the surface. Try a game like “Two Truths and a Lie”, where each student shares three statements about themselves: two true statements and one lie. The class then guesses which statement is the lie, and the student reveals whether the class is correct or not. Icebreaker activities like this are not only a great way to break down initial barriers between classmates, but also provide teachers with a fun and interactive way to connect with their students.

Student Surveys

Distribute personalized surveys that inquire about students' preferences, learning styles, and aspirations. This valuable information provides insights into their individual needs and allows you to tailor your teaching approach accordingly. Consider incorporating questions about their favorite subjects, extracurricular activities, and preferred ways of learning.

It may also be a good idea to inquire about your students’ assessment preferences to understand how students feel most comfortable showcasing their understanding. Some students may excel in traditional exams, while others may prefer project-based assessments. Incorporating a variety of assessment formats, such as presentations, written essays, or hands-on projects, will ensure a more inclusive and personalized approach to evaluating your students’ comprehension and skills.

Attend Extracurricular Activities

Demonstrate your interest in students' lives beyond the classroom by attending their extracurricular activities. Whether it's a sports event, a performance, or a club meeting, showing support outside of academic settings helps you understand their talents and passions on a deeper level.

Invite Students into Your Own Life

When it comes to developing healthy and meaningful relationships with your students, you may find that what works best is to let them into your own life. Of course, they don’t need to know every detail, but inviting them in a little reminds them that you are a real person with a life outside of teaching. Share details about your own family, interests, pet peeves, likes, dislikes, and quirks. Let your students know that you are the same person in the classroom as you are when they see you at the department store.

Here are some effective strategies to allow your students to see the person behind the teacher and create a classroom environment built on trust and understanding:

Share Personal Stories

Sharing personal stories with your students can be a great way to reinforce concepts and principles in a memorable way. Share relatable challenges or learning experiences you've encountered to humanize the learning process and demonstrate resilience. For instance, tell your students about a mistake you made during your early teaching career, what you felt at the time, and what you learned from it. This will allow students to glimpse the real-world application of what they're learning and create a space where students can see you as more than just an instructor.

Welcome Q&A Sessions

Initiate regular question-and-answer sessions where students can ask about your background, interests, or experiences. Emphasize that the Q&A sessions are judgment-free zones where students can ask any questions within appropriate boundaries, and encourage written or anonymous questions, since some students may feel more comfortable expressing themselves this way. Keep the topics diverse – from personal experiences and interests to your teaching philosophy. This will not only let your students in on various aspects of your personality but also create a space where curiosity and understanding thrive.

Incorporate Humor into Your Lessons

One powerful tool often underestimated is humor. Sharing a well-timed joke or a light-hearted anecdote can make you more relatable, approachable, and human in the eyes of your students. It also helps create an environment where students feel comfortable expressing themselves, taking risks, and engaging in discussions. Plus, research suggests that humor can enhance memory retention. When learning is accompanied by laughter, students are more likely to remember the material, so don’t be afraid to incorporate witty mnemonics, humorous examples, and playful activities into your lessons.

By employing these tips, educators can cultivate a high school classroom management approach that transcends traditional boundaries, fostering an environment where both students and teachers thrive in the pursuit of knowledge and personal growth.


Looking for more ways to elevate your teaching approach? Learn more about how you can motivate students to learn by building strong relationships, creating a positive learning environment, and allowing them to make real-life connections to their learning.

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