Build Relationships with Students in 3 Seconds

Every day in schools, educators have quick breaks during instruction, between class changes, and in hallways where the focus isn’t on learning. I believe that these three-second moments are important opportunities to build relationships between students and staff that contribute to a school’s positive culture. What are you doing with the three-second moments you have with each student you encounter?

Everyone understands building relationships with students is a vital part of achieving success in school. As the Wallace Foundation states, “the affective bonds between students and teachers associated with a sense of community are crucial in engaging and motivating students to learn in schools of any type.” No one would argue that relationships aren’t important, but do educators really understand how to build relationships using school as the platform?

For me, it is a simple recipe for success starting with the three-second moments that we have throughout our day. In the hallways of my high school hangs a quote by author Robert Brault that reads, “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Relationships are not built by principals and teachers making grand speeches; relationships are built within those three-second moments that occur each and every day.

Every year I interview our seniors to share their insights on their school experience at River View. One of the questions I ask is, “What teacher has made an impact on you as a student at RVHS?” Students’ responses vary, but the essence of their answer always involves how much time a teacher spends with the student on an individual basis. Whether in the hallway, at the teacher’s desk, or during the last minutes before the bell rings, this time – though seemingly small – makes a huge difference in a student’s life. When a senior mentions a coach who made a difference, it is always in reference to the one-on-one conversations, the bus rides to events, or the long talks after practice that set the great ones apart. Time with students is an investment, and if missed, becomes an opportunity we can never get back. We must learn to utilize the three-second moments that are in front of us.

Like other schools, we are currently examining our systems and policies when it comes to grading. Many studies indicate that only 20 percent of students are motivated by grades. So, this begs the question, what about the other 80 percent? How are they motivated to achieve passing grades to obtain a high school diploma? In Daniel Coyle’s book, The Culture Code, he describes those organizations that have created a great culture with high performance amongst its membership. The top two factors that he found in his research were that members of the organization felt safeandconnected. Coyle then lists several traits of the organizations that he studied. Following is a partial list of those traits that were noticed, not in the big events, but in those three-second moments of social interaction:

  • Close physical proximity
  • Often in circles
  • Profuse amounts of eye contact
  • Physical touch (handshakes, fist bumps, hugs)
  • Lots of short, energetic exchanges (no long speeches)

Can you imagine being in a school—the hallways, cafeteria, or bus area—where this interaction was the norm? Using those three-second moments whenever they present themselves could help promote a culture of caring and reduce issues with student motivation in every school.

Finally, during this time when teachers everywhere are stressed about testing cycles and the end of the year, it is easy to lose sight of whyyou entered this profession. Three-second moments provide the greatest reminder of why you became an educator. These daily interactions create opportunities not only for learning but also for teachers to remember that we were once in their shoes. Many of us went into this profession because we admired the way a teacher or group of teachers created opportunities or built relationships with us. They utilized those three-second moments when they had the chance. I hope you can do the same and keep your whyin front of you as we close school for another year.

Is your staff utilizing their three-second moments to create strong relationships with students? 

Chuck Rinkes is the principal at River View High School in Warsaw, OH. He is the 2018 Ohio Principal of the Year. Chuck is also the 2014 President of the OASSA and 2007 President of Ohio’s Baseball Coaches Association (OHSBCA). Follow him on Twitter at @Chuckrinkes.

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