5 Tips To Build Relationships With Students As A Substitute Teacher

Whether you’re a substitute or full-time teacher, building relationships with students is always important.

If you find a way to form a bond with them, the overall classroom experience becomes more productive and enjoyable. Students are more active listeners and engage with learning better. 

Regardless of how long you’re with the class, these 5 relationship-building tips help you establish rapport with students right away.

If you want your own physical copy of rapport-building tips, download our free infographic!

1) special greetings

special greetings-how to build relationships with your students as a substitute teacher

Think about how you feel when you’re greeted by someone….. who is truly excited to see you!

You also get excited and happy, right? You feel welcomed.

Use this same excitement with your students. Make it a habit to bring the energy and actually greet your students-no mumbling or side glances! Address them with your full attention, look them in the eye, and speak confidently. 

Older students, especially, will size you up, so your first impression is critical.

You can also make the greeting more interactive with a high five, a fist bump, or a special handshake.

This positive interaction helps set the tone for the rest of your experience with the students.

2) check-in

classroom management-how to build relationships with your students as a substitute teacher

Take less than 1 minute to get a gauge of how your students are doing by asking them: “How are you?”

There are many ways for your class to communicate their feelings.

One way is to just have everyone either give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Another way to check-in is to ask students to show a number between 1-5 on their hand, 5 being “My day is great!” and 1 being “My day can only go up from here.”

If there are students who aren’t feeling as well as the others, keep an eye on them. 

You can also check-in regularly throughout the school day. Don’t be the substitute teacher who sits at their desk all day! You’ll appear disinterested or disengaged and likely not invited to teach in the classroom again.  

Instead, give a positive impression to students. Show that you’re engaged and actively, move around the room to check-in with students on their progress.

3) incentivize positive behavior

reward positive behavior-how to build relationships with your students as a substitute teacher

As you go around and check-in with students, reward any positive behavior with praise.

Openly praising good behavior encourages other students to do better, and fosters a cultural wealth model instead of a deficit model. 

You’re a teacher, not a military sergeant. You’re not a disciplinarian, you’re an inspiring role model! 

So, while you might occasionally need to address negative behavior, the most effective tactic to build trust with your students lies in empowering them, not scolding them.

Find ways to encourage more good behavior, like: 

  •  Tell the class that you’ll write down the names of exceptional students to report back to their teacher.
  • Ask each student to take out a piece of paper and make a name card. Then explain they’ll get a hole punch/sticker/stamp for everytime they did well and a special mention to their teacher on their great behavior
  • Write the names on a white board for the whole class to see.

4) listen

listen-how to build relationships with your students as a substitute teacher

Let your students talk to you about something important to them.

Give them 2 minutes of your undivided attention where they can talk about anything.

Students love being heard and respected. If they see that you’re 100% present, they’ll also feel more relaxed and comfortable around you.

If you’re a long-term substitute, try incorporating 1-on-1 meetings with all of your students throughout your placement. Children often feel pressured to perform in front of their peers, so meeting them personally will help them calm down.

If you’re a substitute teacher, you likely won’t have time to meet with everyone, but definitely start addressing students individually instead of a whole group. And whenever a student wants to tell you something, give 100% of your attention.

5) make mistakes

Make mistakes-how to build relationships with your students as a substitute teacher

We teach our students that it’s okay to make mistakes and ask for help. But how willing are we to do the same?

When students make mistakes in front of their peers, they often feel very embarrassed. This can cause them to react negatively.

They may refuse to address the mistake and ask for help. When the whole class gets into this habit, it’s difficult to manage the class effectively.

Teach by example, if they see you, an authority figure, making a mistake and asking for help; that’s powerful!

Whether you’re a full-time teacher or substitute teacher, establishing successful teacher-student relationships is critical for any age group.

Not only will classroom management get much easier, you’ll also feel empowered to lead awesome learning days.

Try out any combination of the 5 rapport-building tips and let us know in the comments which is your favorite tip!

When you become a Scoot substitute teacher, not only do you get access to great schools across California, Arizona, and Texas, but you’ll also get free substitute teacher training.

You’ll learn actionable tools for classroom management, trauma-informed teaching, and special education support.

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