Classroom Management

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 eleven 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 doorDoing 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 AOEU’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 table 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!

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jennifer Borel

Jennifer Borel is one of AOEU’s Adjunct Instructors and Academic Advisors and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She runs her own photography business and is passionate about students exploring the medium.

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