By Jason Zahradnik
During my interview for my current position, I was asked what I believed to be the key ingredients to a good relationship. I stated I believed time to be the most important factor in any relationship. You build good relationships with those people you spend more time with. For instance, my strongest relationship is with my wife. We’ve got over 17 years’ worth of time together between friendship, dating, and marriage. If this is the case, time is a key component to good relationships, then how do we build good relationships with our students?
We’ve got to become really good at managing our time and looking for opportunities to add just a little bit more time to our relationship with each student. While at the same time making certain we have boundaries set-up to keep us from getting burned out.
Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “I’m not here to be the students’ friend” or “I’m too busy.” My response would be, “I thought you were in the business of helping students be successful?” There is a “growing body of evidence supporting the assertion that student-faculty interaction has a significant influence on the grade point average of college students: Bengtsson and Ohlsson, 2010; Cottern and Wilson, 2006; Cox and Orehovec, 2007; Laird and Cruce, 2009; Porter, 2007; Rugutt and Chemosit, 2009 (Al-Hussami, Saleh, Hayajneh, Abdalkader, Mahadeen,2011). Al-Hussami and colleagues go on to say “students who develop interpersonal relationships with faculty members have higher levels of academic skills development and higher rates of persistency.”
I don’t think we can even question anymore if we need to build relationships with our students. It has become something we must be required to do as educators. However, if you have to be required to build relationships with your students then I’d say you are probably in the wrong line of work. Gone are the days of professors sitting on their lofty ivory towers looking down their noses at their students. At Butler, even more so. We’ve got an amazing Faculty Development team who is busy taking sledgehammers to any ivory tower they see.
So what do you do now? Now, that you know you MUST build relationships with your students?
- Show Up Early. Seriously, it’s that simple. I’m only talking about 15-20 minutes here. Get to class, get set-up and then just hangout and talk with your students. If you don’t know what to talk about, I’ve always used the FROM acronym. Ask them about their Family, what they do for Recreation, what their Occupation is, and lastly find something Memorable about them.
- Build It Into Your Class. Catherine Zoerb shared in one of our huddles how she has started using centers in her classroom. One of the centers is her just sitting and talking with the students. I’ve used centers in the past for labs and review activities. Anything you can do where you are not lecturing gives you the opportunity to start mingling with your students. Something else I’ve done is put jokes and memes into my tests. My students really liked this because it broke up the monotony of the test, plus it gives them another chance to view me as a normal human being.
- Stay Late. Don’t be in such a hurry to get out of there. Now, I totally get you’ll have those days where if you see your class for another minute you might just lose it. However, it’s totally ok to show your students you are willing to hangout and answer questions or talk after class. If you have a student who is wanting to just chat, stop putting your things away and talk to them.
As educators, our most valuable asset is our time. Make certain you are spending it wisely.
Al-Hussami, M., Saleh, M. Y. N., Hayajneh, F., Abdalkader, R. H., & Mahadeen, A. I. (2011). The effects of undergraduate nursing student-faculty interaction outside the classroom on college grade point average. Nurse Education in Practice, 11(5), 320-6. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nepr.2011.02.004