Relational Strategies to Start the New Year!

Krista Gypton · January 7, 2020

You have had some time to recover, reflect and refuel and now you are getting ready to head full force into the new semester. For some of you, this can mean brand new students. For many others, it means the same students just in new outfits. Either way, you have an amazing opportunity to start building and deepening relationships in your classroom and we have some low burden, high impact (LoHi) tools to get you started!

Before They Even Walk In
Want to increase engagement by 20% right off the bat? Simply greet students at the door every day. It takes no extra time and yet provides instant connections.


Make it intentional with our 4 at the Door +1 More approach. 


Eye to Eye: Intentionally look students in the eye as they are entering your class. There is not an expectation that students make eye contact back, as we need to be sensitive to various cultures and comfort levels. The purpose here is to articulate, “I see you and you matter.” Role modeling eye contact with other students passing by is a powerful example as well.


Name to Name: Learn the names of your students and use their names as they enter. Greet every student who enters your room by their name. If you don’t know it, ask them and make it a priority to remember it. Once you have all of their names down start learning the names of others who are in the hallway. The role modeling of asking for someone’s name demonstrates humility and your desire to learn.


Hand to Hand: As much as possible, connect with students using handshakes, high fives, fist bumps, elbow bumps, etc.. Remember that relationships are crucial and offering this kindness might be the only unconditional and caring contact that your student receives all day. Be conscious of when this might not be culturally appropriate and one tip is to offer students the choice of how they would like to be greeted. 


Heart to Heart: Connect with your students as human beings each day before they enter as students. Ask questions asking about their weekend, their hobbies, or how their day is going. This is a great opportunity to notice haircuts, celebrate birthdays or successes you know about like an athletic win, or band day performance. When students know you care about them as humans, they will perform better as students. 


+ One More: Engagement happens by having something purposeful for students to engage with right when they enter the room. This should quickly become an expectation and habit! Right when I walk into this class, I take out my journal or notebook and reflect on the answer to the question on the board or screen. This should be a task related to the content of the day or something intentional to see how they are all emotionally entering the space. This content should feel engaging and relevant.  

Relationship Maintenence 

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Because relationships are dynamic and not static it is important that we are consistently reflecting on how they are going. By using some Relationship WD-40 you can assess the state of your relationships with your students and make a quick plan for either some maintenance or needed overhaul.




Role Reversal Opportunities

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Sometimes our most challenging students are the ones who are the hardest to build relationships with and yet most likely need a positive connection the most. By using our Challenge the Challenging you can gain some insight into the person behind the behavior and show them you care enough to connect and learn.




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Students like to know that they bring more to the table than an empty vessel ready to be filled up. Our students have incredible skills, talents, and interests that unfortunately get left outside the doors of our classrooms. A great way to connect with your students, learn something new, and show them that their interests matter to you is through The Student becomes the Master.


We know in our hearts that the core of all we do is about building relationships. That when students feel cared for, listened to, seen and understood their engagement increases and poor behavior decreases. Sometimes we just need a little reminder and some simple tools to build that much-needed foundation. Here’s to a new year and some amazing new relationships! 



Krista Gypton

Krista Gypton taught for 19 years and has received numerous awards for her teaching and student community service, including the 2008 Arizona Teacher of the Year Ambassador for Excellence. She is an emphatic believer in the power of service to others and has traveled as far as South Africa with students to give back. She has been a keynote speaker and trainer for the past 11 years, both nationally and internationally.