Building Relationships

Asking the right questions in the right order!

Building appropriate relationships with students will be the single most important thing teachers can do this year. With six months away from the schoolhouse, students will need the social & emotional connection with teachers and peers.

Building relationships is easy when you ask the right questions!

Think about building relationships (i.e. asking questions) like water sports. There is water skiing, swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. As the relationship builds, your questions can get a little deeper over time.

Relationships are built on spending time with students and getting to know them. Asking questions is the easiest way to do this.

Level 1: Water Skiing

Questions at this level are easy to answer, don't require much thought, and usually have a limited number of answers. Like water skiing, you are just skimming the surface in the relationship building process. Examples include:
  • What's your favorite color?
  • How do you like your burger?
  • Where were you born?
  • What kind of music do you listen to?

Relationships are built on mutual respect and trust. How we ask the question is just as important as the words we say.

Level 2: Swimming

Questions at this level are still relatively easy to answer, but you will find more variety in the answers. Like swimming, you will need a towel to dry off! Examples include:

  • Do you have any brothers or sisters? Tell me about them.
  • Who takes care of you at home?
  • Who is your best friend? Why?
  • What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?

Relationships are built on exchanging information. Share your answer to any question to ask them, and students get to know you too!

Level 3: Snorkeling

Questions at this level require some thought, and will force students to "check-in" on themselves, how they are feeling, and possibly question their emotions. Like snorkeling, you're all in at this point because your now responsive to the answers students give. Examples include:
  • If you were the weather, what would you be right now?
  • Fist to five, how "ready" are you to learn right now?
  • Based on how you are feeling, what type of car would you be?
  • Based on how you are feeling right now, what would your emoji look like?

Be certain to ask questions that everyone can answer, so keep them age-appropriate and watch out for exclusionary pitfalls like gender, ethnicity, religion, etc.

Level 4: Scuba diving

Questions at this level require much thought and can get very personal. This is why it takes time to build to this level. Like the ocean floor, the depth and breadth of these questions is limitless. Examples include:


  • What does it mean to "speak from the heart?"
  • What does the word "trust" mean to you?
  • How did you feel when you were disrespected by someone?
  • What can you do to make yourself a more trustworthy friend?

Building relationships is about keeping the conversation going. Be curious and non-judgmental.