Self-monitoring strategies often begin well before I even walk into my classroom, and they’re some of the best tools for helping build relationships with students. When I thoughtfully observe my emotions and behaviors, I can effectively regulate them, avoiding negative consequences (like losing my temper) or activating an emotional trigger. In this post, I’ll present five tips for effective self-monitoring strategies that will ultimately help teachers build better student relationships.
When self-monitoring throughout the school day, I am, on the one hand, helping myself be present in my classroom with a calm and engaging demeanor. On the other hand, my responses show students how to regulate their own emotions and reactions when faced with a difficult choice. Building relationships with students may produce many positive outcomes, including better attendance, better student performance, and higher self-esteem, not to mention a sense of belonging to a classroom community. Also, being able to self-monitor my emotions and reactions leads to a stronger relationship with my fellow teachers and our school community.
Frequently, the skill of self-monitoring is taught to students. Students learn to observe and record their behavior or thinking to achieve the desired outcomes. Yet, as teachers, we rarely talk about self-monitoring our emotions and reactions to help guide us to better relationships with our students. What if we took a minute to self-monitor our emotions and reactions when we’ve had one of those days—like when our coffee spills, the copy machine jams, and otherwise-perfect angels turn into a rowdy bunch?
With self-monitoring, these scenarios ask us to pause and reflect. How do we react to conflict? How do we maneuver a misstep? How do we keep going when uncertainty arises? In those moments, we, as teachers, can decide how we will react. Some teachers may throw up their hands, and others become angry or passive-aggressive. Whether you are someone who flees, fights, stays present, or starts to yell, one of the best practices as conflict arises is when teachers self-monitor our emotions and reactions so that students understand how best to manage conflict.
The following self-monitoring strategies examples are meant to be used daily for best results. One strategy can be implemented alone or several together. Begin where you feel comfortable and build toward incorporating more.
Five Self-Monitoring Strategies for Building Student Relationships
1. Set Your Daily Teacher Intention
Before you enter your classroom, set a daily teacher intention. An intention is a phrase or two that helps direct your attention to something you would like to have happen in your classroom. This could be a direct outcome, such as, “Today, I will focus on creating an exciting learning environment,” or a big-picture intention, like, “Today, I will find more joy in interacting with my students.”
Whether or not it is a direct outcome or connected to emotions, knowing you’ve set an intention instills in you that, as the teacher, you are in control of your emotions and reactions. You guide the tone in your classroom, and your guidance is what helps build relationships with your students.
2. Check in with Your Body
A simple body check will help you identify how you are feeling. Are you holding your breath? Is your jaw set? Eyes watering? Arms crossed? Our bodies express our emotions. While we may not say anything verbally, it is our body language and nonverbal expressions that students pick up on. Consider how your body language reflects your emotions. If you feel tense, take a stroll around the classroom. Intentionally move your body and take three to five deep breaths.
3. Survey Your Students Throughout the Day
Getting to know your students means discovering which ones push your buttons and how to manage your emotions and reactions when a student triggers you. Throughout the day, survey your classroom. Observe your students to determine what may be potential red flags. Is it that student who always spills glue and who now wants more glitter? Is that chatterbox in the corner on the edge of a low roar? Elevate the positive. Nip the negative.
4. Connect with A Colleague
Knowing that our colleagues support us or can relate to what we are going through significantly boosts morale. Connecting with a colleague reinforces empathy and communal support. Students see their teachers helping each other by listening and coaching. Our connections with colleagues demonstrate to our students how to treat, trust, and support others.
5. Reflect on Your School Day by Journaling
Create a routine of daily reflection after the day is finished. Buy a journal or use an easy self-reflection template (see a filled-out example here). Think about all that has gone right today, what connections you made, and what you look forward to tomorrow. Keep a record of the ebb and flow of your class. Consider positive ways to handle potential red flags so that you have a game plan and won’t be caught off guard.
The act of journaling is a healing one steeped in self-care and self-awareness. The act of pushing a pen across paper or typing words on a keyboard allows you to release any negative emotions and nudges your focus on reflection. By writing down your thoughts, you can gain valuable insight into your teaching practice, emotions, and reactions. In time, you will be able to gather more awareness about yourself, your teaching, and the uniqueness of your students, ultimately giving you more and better opportunities to build positive, affirming relationships.
Coristine, S., Russo, S., Fitzmorris, R., Beninato, P., & Rivolta, G. (2022, April 1). The importance of student-teacher relationships. Classroom Practice in 2022. Retrieved from https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/educ5202/chapter/the-importance-of-student-teacher-relationships/
About the Author
Jen Cullerton Johnson, MEd/MFA, is a passionate and reflective educator in Chicago, Ill. She is the author of several published books, essays, and short stories and has been awarded grants and fellowships for her writing and public speaking. Visit her website at www.jencullertonjohnson.com.