Building Relationships in Virtual Teaching

Virtual teaching is hard. It’s especially difficult when you’re starting from scratch with students. When we moved to virtual instruction last spring, we at least had six months of work with our students to start our experience together. This semester, you have a new roster and you may be wondering how to start to form those relationships.

Kat and I came across a blog post on Teach, Train, Love with 33 suggestions on forming relationships with students before you’re actually able to meet face to face. The post is well worth reading, so head over there for the original.

Kat and I spent some time adapting the suggestions to include tools and resources we have available now in ECS. It’s formatted in a Google Sheet, so you can see each activity along with how to actually do that activity. Here are some of our favorites:

Teacher Trait Wish List

Adults in schools talk a lot about solving problems, but we’re not always great at asking students what they think. There are emerging stories of students organizing to enact change in policy to meet their communities needs better.

Consider starting the year by asking students what would help them stay engaged and encouraged through the semester. We are all in an uncomfortable situation and their input can give valuable insight to your planning and preparation.

Collect data in a Google Form and then create a visual using something like https://www.wordclouds.com/.

Meaningful Momentos

We often attach meaning to physical objects, whether it was a gift, an article of clothing, or a note a student gave you 15 years ago. Our momentos can help others understand our perspectives and get to know us a little better.

You could have a “show and tell” day (yes, high school can do this, too) where students share something meaningful with the class. Invite them to tell a short story about their item and why it is important. You are not exempt!

You can do this in a live Google Meet or using an on-demand reply like a Seesaw Activity or a Flipgrid prompt.

Virtual Parent Night

We can’t tell the future, but with social distancing requirements, it is hard to imagine that we’ll be having a parent night anytime soon. Parents are just as important in your relationship with students and making a connection with someone else at home can help students feel connected.

You could set up a Google Meet for people to join, but this activity is solved with a good old phone call. Every student has a phone number in PowerSchool, so take some time each day over the first week or two to make phone calls to introduce yourself and let them hear your voice.

Connections Matter

None of us became teachers to work alone. Connections play a major role in social-emotional health and it’s going to take some legwork to form connections this year until we’re back together in school. The whole list is here if you want to take a look. You could even make a copy for yourself and check them off as you go through the list.

As always, if you have other ideas, leave them in the comments!


The featured image is Networks, a flickr photo by eflon shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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