Making the Connection

High McDermott, UNHS Principal

I’ve worked in academics for many years, and I’ve always been fascinated with how teachers and students make the “connection” with each other.

From my observations successful classroom connections had the following commonalities:

  • The student was more focused and ready to learn when he/she came to learn.
  • Teachers kept the courses academically challenging.
  • The classroom environment was free from major disruptions

Both teachers and students had to make this happen—but how?

A publication from The National Middle School Association published an article called, “Classroom Connections—Linking National Middle School Association to Middle Level Classrooms Around the World” provides a few tips as to what classroom and online teachers can do to make these connections.

  • Take action. A welcoming room supports risk-taking, safety and academic success. Online teachers must use their “voice” through their response/feedback comments to establish this trust and safe environment for their students. Tone and attitude can be sensed by the words we use and how we use them.
  • Greet students into your classroom by meeting them at the door. A great opportunity to talk with students one-on-one to acknowledge some previous good work you witnessed from them or to remind them of your expectations in the class if need be. For online teachers, using a welcome assignment to let students introduce themselves and responding.
  • Keep in mind that you are always a role model. Whether you are there physically or mentally, students can and will model positive behavior when they experience it from you. They also know when you are being insincere. The choice of words that online teachers use is critical in creating and keeping a positive relationship with students. Look for ways to complement students, yet get your point across for encouraging improvement on course work.
  • Being a good disciplinarian does not mean that students are scared of you. It has to do with your understanding of students. Teachers with positive connections have a very good understanding of the developmental, social, emotional and intellectual changes students are going through. Online teachers must be consistent in their grading, which gives students a sense of fairness in their work.
  • Sometimes you have to revert to being one of “them.” Keep informed about the latest fads, fashions and slang that students use and ask students about their interests and hobbies earn respect from them. Online teachers are masters at picking up on the vibes and clues that students display for them in their submitted written work. Use these clues to extend the conversation with students.

Making connections online is different, but it’s possible and necessary.

With that connection, both teachers and students accomplish the common goal of learning, and all are richer for the experience.


Classroom Connections-Linking National Middle School Association to Middle Level Classrooms Around the World. (2000). The National Middle School Association, 2(4).

Author: University of Nebraska High School

Accredited online high school program providing award-winning curriculum to students in all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

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