The Importance of Developing Relationships with Students by Bradley Leake

Bradley Leake, 8th Grade Honors Algebra, 8th Grade Mathematics, Girls Basketball Coach and Boys’/Girls’ Track Coach. McLean Middle School, Fort Worth ISD

This topic is very personal to me. I often hear other teachers talk about students’ behaviors and wonder: “Who are they talking about? They don’t act that way in my class.” Many kids come to school without knowing they are loved or cared about. They live in climates that I can never imagine. It is not my place to judge them or feel sorry for them. It is my place to provide a safe environment and a love of learning.

I have had several student teachers and for the first week, I only allow them to sit and talk to the students about their personal lives. Kids will not want to learn from someone they do not like! Period! If they feel connected they will jump through hoops for you. Do I have to do extra work- YES! I attend games, concerts, quinceaneras, and many other events. I have kept a calendar on my wall called a Caring Calendar. Students place special events on the calendar and I try to make it to as many of these events as possible. When they see that I care, they care! Many teachers do their planning, teach their lessons, and then head home- Not me!

My students see me all the time. Also, I do not feel ashamed to act stupid and crazy. Is there a costume I can wear to set the tone? Can I do a crazy dance and make jokes- SURE- ALL THE TIME. I always ask the students what their interests are. I create musical playlists based on their likes. I play music all the time! I am known for having strong relationships with many of the toughest students. I don’t judge them. I just let them know that I am there for them if they need me.

Building relationships is crucial in middle school. I have a saying at the end of my class: “If no one has told you they love you today, I love you!” Remember: It may be the only time they hear it!

Bradley is a graduate of the UT Arlington mid-level certification program. To learn more about this program, click here.

One comment

  1. Diane Galloway says:

    Bradley – THANK YOU for sharing HOW. We say, “build relationships” but the school systems leaves little time to actually connect with kids. What you described were intentional actions that are meaningful to the kids. The big ah-ha for me was how you start your student teachers. I’m going for this too by asking CT’s ‘require’ their student teachers to take that first week just to talk and get to know the students. The most successful teachers build relevance, connection and create community.

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