Maintaining Connections with Students from a Distance

Students’ brains are constantly hard at work, learning new skills and bridging new information with old. Those same brains are constantly pursuing relationships with their teachers, their parents and their peers.


Positive connections in students’ lives are fundamental to success. When students feel supported, they are more likely to engage in the classroom and have better academic outcomes. Additionally, when students feel connected to their teachers, they have fewer behavioral problems. Currently, learning from home makes students feel isolated and miss others. Distance learning requires teachers to be more intentional at building connections with students.


During virtual learning, teachers are unable to spend one-on-one time with students. Therefore, teachers are searching for creative, and engaging, ways to connect with students from a distance. Below are some guiding principles for fostering a positive teacher-student relationship from a distance.



Create Social Time for Students


Students often find learning is not just an intellectual activity, but a social activity. During distance learning, students often don’t have the chance to socialize with their peers. This can leave students feeling isolated or, at least, missing their friends. However, there are some creative ways you can help students feel connected virtually.


One way is through facilitating group work. Try to find time for students to work together in online classes. Using breakout rooms, students can complete a group project. This provides them the chance to connect with their peers. You can also have social events through a video call. Allowing students to work together and spend time with their peers will help them not feel isolated or left out.



Embrace Students’ Interests and Strengths

Design lectures, presentations and projects with students in mind. Tailor lessons and examples to students’ interests. Take time to observe and identify students’ strengths, interests and opportunities for growth. Try using examples that align with their interests or goals. Tailoring classes to students’ interests will engage students and pique their interest in the course.

Another way to build a connection with students is by seeing them for their strengths. If students know they are valued for who they are and what they can do, then a student will begin trusting and connecting with you. Each student comes to school with a strength, and it is up to teachers to discover the strength. As an educator, we need to tap into what our students do well and use it as a classroom tool. For many students, a classroom is a safe place. Try to maintain that status by connecting with students individually.



Maintain Classroom Traditions

Everything can feel out of whack to both you and your students when you go from a routine to a whole new, online, normal. As so many aspects of the school experience have changed, it’s important to look for aspects of your old routine you can preserve to give students a sense of normalcy. Think through typical classroom routines and traditions and see if you can translate any of these traditions into a digital format.

For example, if your students are used to a morning routine of getting the wiggles out, try to continue this in a video call. If you have a classroom pet or school farm, let your students see the animals from time to time. Another example would be if your students typically display their stellar work on a bulletin board in the classroom, try displaying them on your LMS or a Google Doc.



2x10 Strategy

Even after following these guidelines, there might be a student you are struggling to connect with. If so, try the 2x10 strategy, which suggests spending two minutes a day for 10 days with a student can foster a relationship. Find quick ways to connect with students, such as sending a private message or hosting a one-on-one meeting. Over time you will begin to learn more about them and their interests. In return, students will start to participate and engage in the class.



Managing a remote classroom can often cause teachers to feel overwhelmed. Teachers are searching for creative ways to build relationships with their students between writing curriculum, grading, answering emails and their personal lives. Fostering connections with students begins with intentionality and communication. During the abnormal times, try to find opportunities for students to connect with each other and yourself.



At iCEV, we offer online, CTE curriculum in seven different subject areas. Additionally, we host a variety of guides, tutorials and resources on our website. If we can further assist you during distance learning, please let us know.