How To Connect Equitably With Your Students

Everyone has had that teacher that has really made a big difference in their life. Talk to any adult and ask them to think back to that one teacher that really had an impact in their life, and everyone will have one.

Those of us who choose to come into the field of education often strive to be that person for our students. We know we can’t be that person for everyone – our favorite teacher wasn’t everyone’s favorite – but we strive nonetheless to create genuine connections with our students.

But before we dive deeper about connecting with students, we have to take a step back and ask ourselves: who do we connect with best in general?

The Theory Behind Connections

Typically, we connect best with the people that make us feel the most comfortable. The more you have to think about interacting with that person – “What do I say? What will we talk about? How should I react?” – the less of a connection there is.

This theory holds true for students. If you need to explain to a child why they need to connect with a teacher – in other words, provide an intellectual argument as to why it would be a good thing for them – that act has already created friction in the student-teacher connection.

You remove that friction when you don’t need to explain the connection to anybody. You don’t need science to explain who you feel comfortable with or who’s influencing you. In the same way, inspiration doesn’t need a technical explanation; there is no formula or equation for inspiration. The moment you start adding science into the mix – unless you have an affinity for scientific explanations – you lose the inspiration.

The Teacher-Student Connection

We’ve mentioned in previous podcasts and blog posts the magic 5:1 ratio of compliments to criticisms that not only predicts successful relationships but also applies to the connection between teachers and students. Similarly, there are other ratios with supporting research, such as the 3:1 and 7:1 ratios, that can also act as predictors of successful relationships. But while some ratios are significant, part of the magic of the ratio is that it quantifies something that should just happen.

For instance, there are so many times I’ve told people about this magic ratio, and they’ve told me “Well, I’m definitely an outlier to that study because I don’t compliment my spouse five times for every criticism, and when we argue, boy, do we argue.”

The beauty of this magic ratio is that when you’re in a good relationship, you give five compliments to every criticism when you argue without even thinking about it. You’re not tallying your compliments and criticisms. It comes naturally as a result of your connection to the other person.

When we talk about helping teachers connect deeply with their students – yes, there’s a ratio around it, and yes, we want to be mindful of being positive. But we want to make sure that it’s not becoming mechanical, robotic, or computerized by only offering formulas, ratios, and equations. It can suck the life out of that potential relationship, which is so important for developing the foundation of learning in a classroom (because we know that students learn better from teachers that they like).

A good connection is genuine; it’s real. It flows, and it feels good and right. There’s a certain sense of ease in the room – a certain feeling of positivity that can be felt by everyone. No one needs to to think about it or explain it. When you walk into a room with someone you feel comfortable with, you can just tell; you can just feel it.

We want to cultivate that kind of environment for every student in the classroom. However, the way to do so is not by strictly following a ratio or otherwise being mechanical about it. The minute you start being too mechanical, you could lose your hard-earned progress.

Instead, you should combine human acts with a better tracking system.

How To Form a Genuine and Equitable Connection With Your Students

You start off by seeing everybody.

When you see somebody, it’s a human act (not mechanical). It’s eye contact, or calling someone by their first name. Yes, there’s scientific research supporting such actions for relationship building, but if you’re going to be scientific about it, it’s not going to work. It has to be real; it has to be genuine. You have to look kids in the eye and tell them that they matter, that you see them, that you are present with them.

We know; you don’t need an app for that. The problem is that you need to do that multiple times for each student in the classroom. Daily. And that’s the real challenge: not overlooking anybody.

With ClasStars, tracking these connections becomes exponentially simple. With a simple swipe, the most minimal way to collect data in the world, ClasStars records that you had a meaningful moment with a student.

Then, your goal is to make sure that you’ve connected with each and every student, every day, multiple times if possible. And finally, you build up from there. That’s human connection, where teachers can connect with their students.

Ultimately, children really just want to be seen, heard, and recognized. ClasStars gives you the “how.” Keep track of engagements by swiping every time you have that human connection with a student.

In the beginning, it may be difficult because you’re not used to paying attention to this, so there could be a bit of a challenge. But then in just a few days, you begin to see patterns. “Here’s a kid that I haven’t gotten to or haven’t gotten to as much as I would have liked to.” “Here’s someone who’s flying under the radar and not able to get the same kind of attention.”

Attention in the classroom is currency, and there are certain students that will naturally obtain it and certain students that will struggle. We want to make sure that no one should have to struggle to get our attention. The teacher’s attention is gold, and the kids who can get it will be better off than those who don’t, so we need equity.

That’s tier 1 of our student engagement framework: everyone should be seen everyday.

Tier 2 is bringing to the teacher’s attention those kids who need more support than the others.

Equity does not mean equality. It does not mean that everyone’s going to get the same amount. In an inequitable environment, students who need more attention to succeed could be getting the same amount as their peers.

For example, if you go to a gas station and have a half tank of gas, you only need to fill up a half tank and you’re good to go. On the other hand, someone who has an empty tank will need a lot more. Someone who needs to travel a greater distance will need more than someone who doesn’t need to travel so far.

The best visualization of this concept is three little boys of different heights who are standing behind a fence wanting to watch the baseball game. Now, imagine there are three equally sized boxes. If the three boys are each standing on a box, two of them can see over the fence and one of them still can’t. On the other hand, one of the two boys standing on the box doesn’t even need the box to see the game because he’s tall enough. Then, there’s the other boy who’s so short he needs two boxes to see over the fence and the third boy who can see over the fence standing on one box. Equity in this case would allow every single boy to watch the game. The boy who doesn’t need a box doesn’t need a box. Why should he stand on a box? He should give his box to his friend who can’t see without two boxes, and the boy who needs one box should have that one box.

Now, everyone can happily watch the baseball game.

Similarly, rationing to give every child the same amount of attention in the classroom doesn’t always make sense. Of course, we understand it gets complicated to apply this in real life – to financial equity, etc. But the point here is that we have a way to ensure equitable attention is given to students in a classroom:

1. Every student is seen every day.

2. Students who need more support because they’re struggling (and again, struggling is a cry for help) are provided with more support and attention.

By providing a very simple way to do that, we’re allowing teachers to connect with students in ways that are far more equitable, far more meaningful, and far more powerful than ever before.

Learn more about ClasStars.

Everyone has had that teacher that has really made a big difference in their life. Talk to any adult and ask them to think back to that one teacher that really had an impact in their life, and everyone will have one.

Those of us who choose to come into the field of education often strive to be that person for our students. We know we can’t be that person for everyone – our favorite teacher wasn’t everyone’s favorite – but we strive nonetheless to create genuine connections with our students.

But before we dive deeper about connecting with students, we have to take a step back and ask ourselves: who do we connect with best in general? 

The Theory Behind Connections

Typically, we connect best with the people that make us feel the most comfortable. The more you have to think about interacting with that person – “What do I say? What will we talk about? How should I react?” – the less of a connection there is. 

This theory holds true for students. If you need to explain to a child why they need to connect with a teacher – in other words, provide an intellectual argument as to why it would be a good thing for them – that act has already created friction in the student-teacher connection. 

You remove that friction when you don’t need to explain the connection to anybody. You don’t need science to explain who you feel comfortable with or who’s influencing you. In the same way, inspiration doesn’t need a technical explanation; there is no formula or equation for inspiration. The moment you start adding science into the mix – unless you have an affinity for scientific explanations – you lose the inspiration.

The Teacher-Student Connection

We’ve mentioned in previous podcasts and blog posts the magic 5:1 ratio of compliments to criticisms that not only predicts successful relationships but also applies to the connection between teachers and students. Similarly, there are other ratios with supporting research, such as the 3:1 and 7:1 ratios, that can also act as predictors of successful relationships. But while some ratios are significant, part of the magic of the ratio is that it quantifies something that should just happen.

For instance, there are so many times I’ve told people about this magic ratio, and they’ve told me “Well, I’m definitely an outlier to that study because I don’t compliment my spouse five times for every criticism, and when we argue, boy, do we argue.”

The beauty of this magic ratio is that when you’re in a good relationship, you give five compliments to every criticism when you argue without even thinking about it. You’re not tallying your compliments and criticisms. It comes naturally as a result of your connection to the other person.

When we talk about helping teachers connect deeply with their students – yes, there’s a ratio around it, and yes, we want to be mindful of being positive. But we want to make sure that it’s not becoming mechanical, robotic, or computerized by only offering formulas, ratios, and equations. It can suck the life out of that potential relationship, which is so important for developing the foundation of learning in a classroom (because we know that students learn better from teachers that they like). 

A good connection is genuine; it’s real. It flows, and it feels good and right. There’s a certain sense of ease in the room – a certain feeling of positivity that can be felt by everyone. No one needs to to think about it or explain it. When you walk into a room with someone you feel comfortable with, you can just tell; you can just feel it.

We want to cultivate that kind of environment for every student in the classroom. However, the way to do so is not by strictly following a ratio or otherwise being mechanical about it. The minute you start being too mechanical, you could lose your hard-earned progress. 

Instead, you should combine human acts with a better tracking system.

How To Form a Genuine and Equitable Connection With Your Students

You start off by seeing everybody. 

When you see somebody, it’s a human act (not mechanical). It’s eye contact, or calling someone by their first name. Yes, there’s scientific research supporting such actions for relationship building, but if you’re going to be scientific about it, it’s not going to work. It has to be real; it has to be genuine. You have to look kids in the eye and tell them that they matter, that you see them, that you are present with them.

We know; you don’t need an app for that. The problem is that you need to do that multiple times for each student in the classroom. Daily. And that’s the real challenge: not overlooking anybody. 

With ClasStars, tracking these connections becomes exponentially simple. With a simple swipe, the most minimal way to collect data in the world, ClasStars records that you had a meaningful moment with a student.

Then, your goal is to make sure that you’ve connected with each and every student, every day, multiple times if possible. And finally, you build up from there. That’s human connection, where teachers can connect with their students.

Ultimately, children really just want to be seen, heard, and recognized. ClasStars gives you the “how.” Keep track of engagements by swiping every time you have that human connection with a student.

In the beginning, it may be difficult because you’re not used to paying attention to this, so there could be a bit of a challenge. But then in just a few days, you begin to see patterns. “Here’s a kid that I haven’t gotten to or haven’t gotten to as much as I would have liked to.” “Here’s someone who’s flying under the radar and not able to get the same kind of attention.” 

Attention in the classroom is currency, and there are certain students that will naturally obtain it and certain students that will struggle. We want to make sure that no one should have to struggle to get our attention. The teacher’s attention is gold, and the kids who can get it will be better off than those who don’t, so we need equity. 

That’s tier 1 of our student engagement framework: everyone should be seen everyday. 

Tier 2 is bringing to the teacher’s attention those kids who need more support than the others. 

Equity does not mean equality. It does not mean that everyone’s going to get the same amount. In an inequitable environment, students who need more attention to succeed could be getting the same amount as their peers.

For example, if you go to a gas station and have a half tank of gas, you only need to fill up a half tank and you’re good to go. On the other hand, someone who has an empty tank will need a lot more. Someone who needs to travel a greater distance will need more than someone who doesn’t need to travel so far.

The best visualization of this concept is three little boys of different heights who are standing behind a fence wanting to watch the baseball game. Now, imagine there are three equally sized boxes. If the three boys are each standing on a box, two of them can see over the fence and one of them still can’t. On the other hand, one of the two boys standing on the box doesn’t even need the box to see the game because he’s tall enough. Then, there’s the other boy who’s so short he needs two boxes to see over the fence and the third boy who can see over the fence standing on one box. Equity in this case would allow every single boy to watch the game. The boy who doesn’t need a box doesn’t need a box. Why should he stand on a box? He should give his box to his friend who can’t see without two boxes, and the boy who needs one box should have that one box. 

Now, everyone can happily watch the baseball game.

Similarly, rationing to give every child the same amount of attention in the classroom doesn’t always make sense. Of course, we understand it gets complicated to apply this in real life – to financial equity, etc. But the point here is that we have a way to ensure equitable attention is given to students in a classroom:

  1. Every student is seen every day. 
  2. Students who need more support because they’re struggling (and again, struggling is a cry for help) are provided with more support and attention. 

By providing a very simple way to do that, we’re allowing teachers to connect with students in ways that are far more equitable, far more meaningful, and far more powerful than ever before.

Learn more about ClasStars.