11 Ways to Build Personal Relationships When You See 500 Students a Week

building relationships title
When you think about how many students walk through your door in a week, the idea of building personal relationships, let alone learning all their names, can feel overwhelming. I can totally relate. However, even with a shortage of time and a surplus of students, it is still possible to build genuine bonds. Check out our list below for easy strategies to implement when you want to connect with your students on a personal level.

1. Learn your students’ names.

I realize that learning 500+ names seems like a challenge, but a simple way to connect with anyone is by learning their name. Seating charts with the students’ pictures are a great way to start this task. You’ll never dive deeper into personal connections until you know their names. Plus, it helps out with classroom management! Anytime you have a few extra minutes at the end of class, play a guessing game and try and see how many names you can get right.

2. Assign a project that asks students to depict their interests.

Especially at the beginning of the year or semester, ask students to complete a project or two that tells you something about them. It could be designing their name from objects that divulge their interests, designing a portfolio cover that includes their favorite things, or illustrating their biggest dreams. Looking over this body of work will help you hone in on personalized student interests.

3. Greet students at the door each class.

art room door
Doing a quick check-in as students come through your doors can do wonders for building relationships. Smiling at each student individually helps them feel at ease. You may even get a quick, “We went camping this weekend!” or “I found a new artist to share!” as they come in the door, which you can circle back to during work time.

4. Eat lunch with them.

Being around other adults sounds appealing, but carving out some time to eat lunch with students in your building is a great way to build rapport. You could eat in your room or in the cafeteria. Either way, the students will share more with you than they ever will in the classroom.

5. Let them see the real you.

use humor
In The Art of Education’s course Managing the Art Room, we learn that humor is a great way for students to connect with you. Don’t be afraid to be silly at times. Just make sure you have control of your class, otherwise it is hard to reel them back in.

6. Go to after school events.

I know you all are the first to sign up to chaperone the annual dance event. And you most certainly spend every Friday night in the bleachers at the school football game. Good for you! Spending time with students outside of school lets them know you care. Plus, how could they not love you when you are busting out a new dance move at the prom?

7. Get involved with extracurriculars.

If you are a coach, you play a pretty important role in your students’ lives. You are more than just a teacher, you are a role model (unless you are throwing clipboards or pom-poms). Long bus rides are perfect for deep conversations.

8. Start an art club.

art club
Maybe you’d rather be hosting an art club than tossing around a football with your students. You can limit the number of students allowed in the club. Having fewer students means that you have even more time to get to know every student personally. You can even rotate members every quarter.

9. Talk to the counselors.

Counselors always seem to know everything about the students. Perhaps they can offer you some pointers on how to better connect with certain tough cases.

10. Talk to their parents.

positive note home
Getting to know a student’s family can give you important insight. Make it a point to call home with positive behavior reports. Try to ask questions and see your students how their parents see them. You will win parents and students over by trying this method.

11. Sit and do art with them.

work with kids
My favorite thing to do during class is to pull up a chair at the tables and create art with the students. Although my document camera often chains me to my desk, it is fun to break free and dig deeper into my students’ lives by asking all sorts of questions.
You might not be able to build a deep personal relationship with every student in your building, but these tips will help you get closer to many of them. Don’t let the busyness of your schedule keep you from experiencing these special moments you can share with your students. Students will notice the extra bit of attention you pay them, so make it a point this year to try some of these ideas out.

Which of these ideas has helped you connect with students in the past?

Got a different idea? Let us know what it is in the comments below!


Jennifer is an middle school art teacher in Kansas who is passionate about creating an organized, well-managed environment where students feel comfortable to learn and explore.


  • laura

    This is great.. the greet at the door always is a big plus for my classes — always showing a smile ..

  • This year, I am asking teachers to print out their rosters with photos for me. So far, only one has done it because the feature is buried in OnCourse, but I’m hoping that once I do that and review it regularly I will remember more names. I find the kids I remember so easily are my students who I redirect seemingly ALL class. LOL! Then, the kids who are quiet and polite become nameless.

    I would love to have lunch with my students, but we only have 30 minutes for lunch this year. On top of that, I do all three lunch duties with the other Specialists so I see the kids but not in a way that is relaxed and conducive to knowing them better.

    • That’s a good idea. Our system allows the specialists to print those out for every class. The only problem is I need one for Kindergarten and their don’t have pictures yet! Oh well…

  • Berit Massman

    I am a new art teacher anD I have over 900 students from K-5th! it was reassuring to read that I have done somethings right. Another thing I pass out student art work ( not student helpers,yet) –that way I read the name and see the face.

  • Shelley Stolt Williams

    I am a new art teacher this year and I am in a prek-8 school with over 700 students. It helps that I have subbed at this school for more than 10 years, but I am happy to see that I am already doing many of these. I believe the hardest is to remember everyone’s name.

    • That’s great to hear! I think you are right, memorizing names is truly difficult…but worth it.

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  • Tara H

    I guess I am lucky in this regard. I was a parent first at my children’s school before I was hired on as the Art teacher. It has made it much easier for me with names and relationships, especially with the grade levels my boys are in. Our new photographer gave the office a copy of the student photos by name and class last year… I borrowed this and made copies for all the Specials (boy, was I ever popular!) which made it easier for everyone to put faces to names. We’re hoping he provides this service again this year.

    • That is so great! Equally awesome that you knew almost everyone prior.

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  • Kristine Blocker

    Although I allow students to choose their seats, I create a seating chart right away. I also greet them at the door and I usually learn their names pretty quickly. Seating charts are very helpful for substitute teachers too.

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