Building Student Relationships While Teaching Remotely

Remote teaching doesn’t mean the end of positive teacher-student relationships! I’ve shared ideas, activities, and tips for teachers to continue building positive relationships with students. Make sure to download the freebie in the post!

I’ve written a lot about the importance of building strong relationships with your students but never before has it ever felt as crucial as it does today. 

In this time of distance learning we must find small, simple ways to connect with our students; to let them know we are here for them, we hear them, and we care.

teacher teaching from home

It seems like a pertinent time to share ideas for how you can continue to build meaningful relationships with your students, even from afar.  

Be Open and Honest  

Acknowledge that this “new normal” and challenging for all of us- parents, students, and teachers!  We’ll all have our ups and downs; our good days and our bad days. It’s okay to let them know when you are having a rough day.  Your honesty will help them feel more comfortable sharing their own feelings. 

Let Your Students “See” You

Your students miss seeing your face! Try using Zoom or Google Meet to hold morning or weekly meetings, or just get together to chat!  They will love getting a glimpse into your life – seeing your home, meeting your pets and children, watching you sip your coffee in your comfy clothes!  This is all SO special for students!  

And remember, your “meetings” don’t have to go perfectly!  There will be technical difficulties, students talking over each other, etc.  That’s okay! Just know your students are happy to simply feel this connection. 

Small Group Lunch Buddies 

If getting the entire class together is a bit overwhelming, try holding small group lunch meetups!  Pick two or three students to join you for a virtual lunch! Encourage them to share non-academic parts of their lives, letting them share their new and old passions. It’s a great way to get in more intimate check-in and hear how they are doing. 

Hold School Spirit Days

It doesn’t take a whole lot to make a day feel more special to a child!  Have PJ day, sports day, crazy hat day, or school pride day where they wear their school shirt or colors. 

Students can show up to virtual class meetings in their spirit wear or you can create a place for kids to post pictures of themselves.  It is sure to bring sweet smiles and giggles! 

Bring Comfort with Familiarity

Find ways to give your students a bit of the routine they are used to from school. If you usually start the day with a morning greeting, take turns greeting each other as they join your virtual meeting. 

remote morning greeting choices

A special song you sing each morning?? Keep singing it! Continue recognizing and celebrating birthdays! You can use the same hand signals you use in the classroom to get their attention, quiet them down, or check for understanding while in your virtual meeting.  If you have a picture of your classroom you can use as your Zoom background to help students feel more “at home”. These routines are important and will help students to feel safe and comfortable. 

Give DAILY Reminders That You Believe In Their Ability

Remote learning is new and different for both teachers and students.  We are all just learning! It won’t always be easy, but we want our students to continue to develop their growth mindset and believe in themselves.  In order to do that they must sense that we genuinely, and enthusiastically believe in them. Take time to acknowledge that things may be challenging and feel different, but remind them that they CAN do things that are hard! 

Build Social Emotional Lessons Into Your Weekly Schedule

Your students are likely feeling a range of emotions.  Ask your students how they are feeling and provide them with concrete strategies for managing them. Encourage them to find joy daily and focus on positive aspects as they take one day at a time. Download this FREE Gratitude Journal to share with them in printable or digital format and urge them to journal daily to combat anxiety.

free gratitude journal for kids

In addition, my friend Elyse from Proud to Be Primary has many wonderful resources for primary classrooms. If you are looking for explicit social-emotional learning ideas and activities make sure to check out her post Emotions for Kids: Lessons and Activities to Build Self-Awareness.

Assure Students You Are Here For Them

Your students may be feeling anxious, isolated, sad or experiencing difficult relationships in the home. Remind them that even though you are not able to be together in the classroom, they should know that you want what’s best for them, you’ll protect them, and you’ll unconditionally care for them no matter what.

Let students know they can contact you via app messages and email to share how they are feeling.  Validate their feelings by responding thoughtfully to each message. That being said, also be sure you set boundaries for yourself by making a plan to respond to messages only at certain times or on certain days.   

Reach Out to Parents 

Ask parents what you can do to better support their child.  Find out what things are going well at home, what is challenging, and if their child might like to share something that the whole class could benefit and learn from.  Allow them to respond privately through email or confidentially through a google form. Don’t forget to remind them we are all in this together!  

I hope the ideas I’ve shared here today will help you and your students continue to grow and deepen your relationships.  And while I believe these suggestions will benefit your students, I also hope you’ll find they make you a happier, more energized and balanced teacher.    

And finally, I know there are many other wonderful ways teachers are showing up and caring for their students!  I’d love to hear about them! Please share below so we can all hear about the amazing things happening in virtual classrooms today!  

Stay safe and be well! 


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