Building a committed relationship with your students

Building a committed relationship with your students

I understand that building a relationship with complete strangers can be intimidating and extremely daunting but it could be very valuable and mutually beneficial in the long run.

Today we’re going to discuss how to build that long lasting and trustworthy relationship between you and your students

You are not only their teacher but also the manager of the classroom. Your students look up to you, therefore you need to play the role as the leader and much much more. You are not only a teacher but a counselor, a friend, a confidant and the sooner you see it that way the better and stronger your relationships will be with your students.

If you want to build a close and lasting relationship with your student it’s important to show genuine interest in who they are, what their passions are, what they did today, the weekend or their last holiday, what are their strengths, and what are their weaknesses. The list goes on and on and on.

Remember that students are also people and we need to treat them as such. As humans, we are constantly craving human touch, human interaction as we are not robots.

We want connection.  If your students’ didn’t want a connection or human elements while learning English they most definitely would not be taking lessons at Skyeng, that’s for sure.

Here are my personal steps and by following these steps I have managed to keep my students for years! I built such a great relationship with them that I had visited and stayed in their homes during my visit to Russia. I hope these steps will help you as much as it helped me.

Step 1: Get to know your student

This is the simplest and most straight forward stuff.

Keep it simple,  just get to know your student! Who are they? Where did they study? Why are they studying English? How will English change their life and what are their strengths and weaknesses? What are their hobbies and what do they do to fun? Do they have a family and do they have pets? What are their names? Is she a crazy cat lady?  Do they like to watch movies, series or read books? Do they like to travel and what was their favourite destination?

Basically, this step comes down to you need to ask as many questions as possible.  

Be genuine! Don’t just ask questions that you really don’t care about. You have to be real or your student will pick up on this and close off completely and there goes your first impression AND your opportunity to really make a connection with your student. Keep in mind your body language needs to be appropriate as well. There’s no point asking questions about their lives and who they are when you keep staring at the watch in front of your computer or seem distracted. Don’t type during the lesson either, that will be distracting to the student and make it seem like you’re busy doing something else. Instead of taking notes my suggestion is to always record the first lesson and make your notes after.

Step 2.  Generate an action plan

At your first lesson, a student doesn’t just want to only talk about himself and hear only about you, they want to know what they will be learning with you and this is your opportunity to show them why they should pick you as their English teacher.

I always recommend after discussing the students’ hobbies and their likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, determining if they are stronger in reading or writing or speaking; to discuss materials, lessons and create an action plan together.

The conversation goes a little bit like this:

“Ok Maria, so you say you’re learning English for business purposes you don’t know how to make small talk with corporate clients and co-workers and you struggle to write a formal email in correspondence, you also have to prepare public speaking and deliver presentations, I would recommend the following course: Informal Communication and we can combine presentations every second lesson so we have a balance. I suggest we start on the intermediate level and see how you do and then increase the difficulty as needed.”

Step 3:  Open Door policy

It’s important that you have an open door policy with your students’ and make sure that they are aware that they can approach you at any time regarding their feelings. I tell my new students that if a course is not working for them or they find the material boring or they are not challenged enough that they should immediately tell me and it will not be any problem to change the course according to their feelings. At the end of the day, you can speak English but your student is the one that needs to learn. Rather encourage them to inform you of issues instead of just dropping out on classes. This way, the student will feel comfortable to inform you at any time when they feel they are not making progress and this creates the opportunity for you to correct it and motivate them again.

Step 4: Change it up

Just because the course is outlined by the coursebook, in Vimbox doesn’t mean that you have to stick to this course religiously and not deviate sometimes. If it’s a long complicated course it’s great to mix things up sometimes. It’s not uncommon to jump from one course to another for example I like to jump from the business course to the news course where we discuss short news articles or things that are happening in the world right now, especially if we spend half the lesson just talking about things and want to fit in a little bit of English. You’ll find that if you build a good relationship with your student that you can talk about anything and everything. Remember talking English is also building their skills and giving them the ability to speak freely and improve their English level, therefore, it’s good to fit in a little bit of work if you can towards the end of the lesson but make sure that this does not become a habit. It’s also great to sometimes deviate to a completely different media such as using materials from TED Talks, music, business articles or anything that can entice the students’ interests and change the mundane routine.

Step 5: Be reasonable

I’ve given my students the benefit of the doubt and human understanding when it comes to last minute cancellations. The student might be stuck in traffic, there might be a family emergency. It’s important to be understanding and maybe consider not charging them for the cancellation but instead sending them on vacation or rescheduling the lesson. If you show your students’ a human side you are also showing them respect and understanding. In return, they will show you the same respect and understanding when you can’t make it to a lesson.  I find that this personal policy between my students and I has been the biggest game-changer in my relationships with students. They need to know that we care about them and their well-being and that we don’t just see them as cash cows.

Step 6: Evaluate

Some students want to know how they’re doing. It’s important that you evaluate your students every couple of weeks to show them the progress that they are making. It’s such a small thing but it motivates them on a rather large scale. At the end of every lesson usually, your scores are tallied up and this really helps. It displays to the student how much progress they have made in each section such as vocabulary, writing,  speaking and so forth. There are so many great resources available out there that you can send to your student where they are able to determine if their language level has improved or not. It’s also important to challenge your students so every so often in why don’t you send something that’s a little bit out of their comfort zone and they might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

In conclusion:

⭐Get to know your students!

⭐It’s really really important that you ask a lot of questions!  

⭐Once you have answers to those questions have an action plan and recommend a course that would work and be appropriate for your students’ This way they will feel that their first lesson with you was not only personal but also productive and they know what they can expect at the second lesson with you.

⭐Have an open door policy as it creates a great environment where a student feels comfortable to communicate with you when they feel bored in class or think they are not making progress.

⭐ At the end of the day, they are the ones that need to learn and they most definitely will not learn if they feel demotivated or think that the material is boring.

⭐ Be open to changing things up. Changing things up is always a positive thing as it keeps students on their toes and keeps them motivated!

⭐And lastly, be reasonable and be caring! Show your students’ that you’re human and that you genuinely care about their well being. Use your own discretion and make sure that no bad habits are formed.

⭐Get your student out of their comfort zone by sending them regular evaluations or lessons that get them out of their comfort zone and challenge them. They can be pleasantly surprised at their results! This will also make clear where their new strengths and weaknesses are.

Thanks for reading and I hope this article helped you today!

If you have any suggestions or questions you know I love reading your comments so don’t hesitate to let me know below!

Hanette Lian Stimie

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