Developing communication and cooperation between teachers and students can sometimes be difficult, but God’s word clearly emphasizes the importance of connecting in healthy ways. 1 Peter 3: 8-9, for example, says, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” Similarly, Romans 12:16 tells us to “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” and Colossians 4:6 tells us to “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
We know as educators that this can be much easier said than done, however. How can we as teachers develop trust and open communication with our pupils? There are a few attributes that are essential for this development: respect, enjoyment, reflection, accommodation, and adjustment. When guiding our students, we should focus on giving positive and constructive advice and learning about the unique strengths and weaknesses of our students. Because each teacher is a unique individual, and our students are individuals as well, it is essential to look for our own ways to communicate our care and concern to each individual student.
Much of building trust with students happens through a lengthy process of developing our respect, enjoyment, reflection, accommodation, and adjustment towards our students. However, there are also many ways we can build trust through simple activities during class time. While some of these activities may seem silly, they show that we are interested in our students as individuals, not just as students. Chase Mielke suggests these options for use at the beginning of class:
- Have students pair-share about the highlights of their day.
- Ask students to write down “2 Truths and 1 Lie” about themselves on a notecard. Then read some at random and have peers predict who wrote it.
- Welcome each student into the classroom with a fist bump and a smile.
- Do something playful, like asking for random facts or corny jokes.
- Ask them to write a brief, half-page summary about what’s going on in their life.
- Do a quick round of “speed dating” in which they talk to a peer about a random question you pose.
The benefits of positive communication and cooperation can be immense. It can help reduce conflicts and increase positive engagement by students. It can boost the learning of students and the professional growth of teachers. Ultimately, however, perfect communication and cooperation among teachers and students will occur only when Christ’s character permeates our hearts. The working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts can help us as we work toward harmony and connection with our students. God has designed mankind to live together harmoniously despite our differences, and he will help teachers and students with this as well.