Whether you are an experienced Bible class volunteer teacher who is getting a new group of students or a newbie beginning to teach an already established class, bonding with your students is key to making a meaningful impact on their lives. It’s easy for volunteers who think of teaching children and teens as babysitting to teach the same group of students for months and still not know their names. Teachers who view their class as their ministry will go beyond just knowing names. They will attempt to establish meaningful relationships with their students in order to better mentor and teach them.
What are some ways to start new teacher/student relationships off on a good footing? Here are some of our favorite tips.
- Make sure you’re getting names right. As someone whose life has been a spelling bee when any teacher called roll and then a lesson in pronunciation, I can tell you how frustrating it is when someone can’t seem to get your name right – especially a teacher. Take a few extra minutes to talk to each student privately to make sure you are calling him or her by the name they use at church (often a family nickname rather than a more official name they may go by at school) and that you are pronouncing it correctly. It is amazing how many people will go to church with others for years and still pronounce their name incorrectly. It shows you care enough to get it right when you take the time to ask. (Tip: Write it down phonetically if you think you might forget. Take a quick photo on your iPhone and make the caption the child’s name and any notes about pronunciation.)
- Have fun get to know you surveys. Throw in questions like what’s your favorite Bible verse with what’s your favorite flavor of ice cream. Have a private chat with each student and point out something you have in common. (Tip: Pick a few questions that are more likely to produce similarities with you to make it easier.)
- Have several sets of a getting to know you board games for small groups of students and teachers or mentors to play together. Players roll the dice and each square on the board has something they have to share about themselves if they land on it. (Tip: Use an online game board generator to make it easier to create multiple game sets.)
- Three things I wish my teacher knew. Have students write their three things on a piece of paper and give it to you. Answers should be kept private between the student and you unless they want to share it with others for some reason.
- Host a class get together. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it is important to have it in your home. Children especially tend to think teachers don’t have a “real life”, but even teens can benefit from seeing who you are as a person and not just as a teacher.
- Visit students in their homes, at school and/or attend their activities. Your students want you to know them as “real people” also. Little ones may want to show you their room or to have lunch with them at school (check school policies before promising to have lunch at school as some require special permission or don’t allow it at all). Teens want to show you their interests and strengths – especially if they feel they are not at their best in your class.
- Have small group outings. Taking one to three students somewhere still gives you time to spend focusing your attention on each individual while making it easier to spend time with a larger group in a shorter amount of time. It doesn’t have to be fancy. A visit to the playground, a hike, a coffee shop or ice cream stop or even a field trip to a museum with biblical artifacts can begin a mentoring relationship.
Getting to know your students and ministering to them takes more time and effort, but it can result in having a more meaningful impact on their spiritual lives. For some students that extra attention can change everything.