How Helping Students Feel Valued Contributes to Building Relationships

Last month, we talked about why it is important to build relationships with your students using respect and positivity. Treating students with respect and creating a positive environment go a long way toward helping students feel accepted and this, in turn, will cause them to be more willing to treat others with respect and positivity.  This post will focus primarily on building student relationships by helping them feel valued.

The Benefits of Feeling Valued

It has been my experience that when students just “exist” in a classroom – they come in every day, do their work, and leave – they are less engaged and less willing to form relationships. Using respect and positivity sets the tone for how students expect to be interacted with and how they will be expected to interact with others. However, without feeling valued, they aren’t entirely a participant in the classroom. Students who don’t feel like they provide value to their classroom community don’t feel like true community members. 

When students feel like they have something to contribute to the class, they feel part of the community and that people are relying on them to bring something to the table. Something as simple as passing out the papers or turning on and off the light helps students feel responsible and this increases the relationship bond both with the teacher and the other students as well.

Ways to Provide Value to Students in the Classroom

The first way to provide value to students in the classroom is through class jobs. Many teachers do this already. There is a calendar helper, a paper passer, a chair stacker, etc. When students have a job they feel like they are contributing to the classroom community. 

In my own experience, I had a student who had a hard time transitioning into school in the mornings. They would go to the classroom but wander around and distract other students. They would often get grumpy when adults redirected them. I made them the “lunch list helper” which consisted of getting the list of lunches students ordered from the office in the morning and I saw a huge turnaround. Not only did this job occupy their time in the mornings before the morning meetings, but they were proud to help the classroom and have a job that no one else had. They were able to work on life skills such as independently walking to and from the office, asking the administrative assistant for the lists, and filing them where they needed to go. Because they were proud to contribute and happy that I chose them for the job, this strengthened our relationship bond.

Other ways to help students feel valued in the classroom are:

  • General assistance tasks – one of the best tools in a teacher’s toolbox is the phrase “can you help with that?”
  • Having students take turns “being the teacher” so they can feel that they are helping contribute knowledge to their community
  • Have students help come up with ideas for projects or activities. I like to build class quizzes with their input on what the questions should be or have them help plan a craft or activity.
  • Be their biggest champion – get to know them, listen to them, be consistent with your interactions and encourage them – make them feel like they matter!

Do you have any tips and tricks for building relationships with students in special education through value? Do you have examples of why it is important? Let me know in the comments or find me on Instagram @sleepyowlteaching!

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