Strategies: Maintaining Student Relationships


Dr. Clay Cook, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, has developed a method he calls EMR, which focuses directly on establishing, maintaining, and restoring student relationships. Students crave genuine relationships, and often times students who find themselves in the most trouble are the students who need genuine, positive relationships the most! As relationships begin to be established between you and your students, classroom management will begin to be more effective and less necessary.

Many of the strategies involved within Dr. Cook’s method to build relationships with students are universal. While the strategies are not necessarily new, it is important to have more than one tool in the toolbox when attempting to build relationships with students, as well as have a sense of where the relationship with a student is.

Maintaining Relationships

Maintaining relationships means continuing to use working strategies while establishing student relationships. However, as you transition through the year, it is a good idea to reflect on your classes, and determine who you are missing, and who is most at risk for not having a positive relationship with you. Once identified, these are the students that will need the most effort from you and your relationship building strategies.

The strategy below can be used to identify which phase your relationship with each student is.

Roster E-M-R

Grab a roster of one of your classes (maybe a class you find most challenging with behavior management). Next to each student’s name, put an E – M – R, referring to your phase of relationship you have with that student.

Your goal is to maintain your relationships with students. Any student with an M next to their name, continue maintaining your relationship with them.

Students with an R next to their name means that the relationship has been stressed recently, due to classroom management, a comment, or maybe for another reason. Your relationship with this student needs to be restored at this point. Use restoration strategies to rebuild and repair your relationship with that student.

Students with an E next to their name have not built a relationship with you yet. Begin using strategies to establish a relationship with your students. Be sure to specifically focus on building relationships with these students, because unlike your other students, a relationship has not been established yet. If these students don’t have any relationship with you, there is a good chance they may be missing out on relationships from other teachers as well!

What’s Next

There is more to EMR than just maintaining relationships! Continue here to part 3 – Restoring Student Relationships. Additionally, if you want a free staff development resource that helps identify where each relationship is with each student, check out Relationship Triage – a free EMR staff development activity.

Finally, if you are looking for additional strategies or are struggling to establish new relationships, use the comments below or share your story with me on twitter. Let’s get better together!

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