6 Exercises to Build a Culture of Trust and Community upon return to School

Allow time to process and validate experiences

As we return to school many of us feel anxious, stressed and fearful about what this academic year will bring. We have experienced an unprecedented time during this pandemic, in which we faced changes to our environment with many of us teaching from home while managing the needs of our own families during lockdown. And sadly for many, trying to cope with the loss of a loved one. It is important not only acknowledge this but to give space for this to be acknowledged within our classroom. As school psychologist Heather Peck says “allow time to process and validate experiences.”

Globally teachers are being asked to make up for “learning loss” when we know from experience and indeed instinct that the greater need is to make up for social loss. This is backuped by Recommendations published by The Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU) (a child and youth mental health research and innovation unit based at UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences and the Anna Freud Centre) and The Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC) reinforce the need to socialise and form bonds:

Clanbeat Academy has put together a range of activities to support you in supporting your class. These are designed especially for the first few weeks and can be used by new students to get to know and support each other, and by those returning to class to get to know each other better. We hope you find them useful in building a culture of trust which will last throughout the year.

"Increasing opportunities for play, socialisation, and social learning experiences for children is vital. Time for play and socialisation is necessary for children’s development, but many children and young people have been forced to grow up quickly during the pandemic. For instance, some children have had to help parents and carers with household tasks or the care of siblings, take responsibility for their own learning, or have had access to worrying information about the pandemic or experienced bereavement. As we move on from lockdown conditions, increasing play and fun experiences for children is extremely important."

– The Evidence Based Practice Unit.

Building a Culture of Trust

After a year of restrictions and disruptions the sense of connection with others within our schools has weakened. Many pupils have reported feelings of isolation, lacking a sense of belonging and for those who joined new schools last year the opportunity to grow new friendships was stunted.

Time away from academic lessons needs to be given to acknowledge these feelings and time, effort and thought needs to go into ways in which we can rebuild trust, community and connection. We need to be activists for socialisation in the wake of social distancing.



Supporting our students to build trust and connection starts with the teacher. Many of us will have “Meet the Teacher” as a staple in our back to school routine. This year it would be the ideal opportunity to spend more time sharing information and aspirations with each other, more time building on those connections and sharing information that builds trust. It’s relevant and needed more than ever.

Clanbeat gives the whole class the opportunity to learn about one another and to keep that information handy and updated.

1 - Preparation

1. Before class if you haven’t already done so, Download the Free Clanbeat app to get started or contact us for a one to one chat and we will walk you through it.

2. Take time to complete your personal profile as your students will see it and will be asking you questions!

3. Post a profile picture of something, one, or place that is important to you. You will need this for activity.

4. Make a note of the Join Code.

2 - Meet the Class

1. Invite students to download the Clanbeat App, and provide them with the join code.

2. Ask them to take their time completing their personal profiles. They can add a new interest or bucket list item if they can’t find the one they want.

3. Interests, Bucket Lists and Languages will have a green circle around them if someone else in their class also likes it. Ask them to click on the circled ones to see if they can find some who likes what they like. It may be helpful to show them this Demo video.

4. Thinking about your favourite interest, is there someone you don’t really know who also likes it? Ask them a question about it (e.g. what do you think is the best thing about this? How long have you liked this? What level are you at? etc) via Clanbeat Direct Message.

3 - Which of these is TRUE?

An exercise to build rapport and strengthen relationships.

1. Have 3 interesting statements about yourself prepared. One of them is FALSE for example:

a) I can ride a unicycle
b) My left leg is shorter than my right
c) I can hypnotise you

2. On Clanbeat home page, go to quick links then Share Info. Post one question at a time giving the students the opportunity to respond in comments or by using the emojis (laughing with you if they think it’s false and with you on that if they think it’s true).

3. Take a few minutes to tell the your story about your 2 true statements.

4. Ask the students to share 1 True and 1 False statement about themselves on Clanbeat and allow the class time to comment if they think its true or false. Remind them to only share what they don’t mind others knowing.

We all thrive in a space where we feel safe and know what the boundaries are.  This is true of all ages but especially for teens.  As teachers we want to create an environment where every single person feels they can work to their best. A space where everyone FEELS they can be themselves. They FEEL they can make mistakes – its by making mistakes that we learn. We do our best when we trust those around us.

4 - Creating Ground Rules and developing Agency

I know a teacher who had just 1 rule. That was RESPECT. She brought everything back to that. However involving the class in establishing rules by which they will govern themselves and each other is a powerful bonding technique.

1. Start the ball rolling by suggesting 1 or 2 ground rules. For example:

a) Even if you don’t understand why someone is feeling a certain way, try to be empathetic
b) Treat others with respect
c) Don’t judge gossip or talk about what someone else shares
d) Treat people the way you want to be treated

2. Ask students to tell you or send you a DM in clanbeat with their suggestions (this way the shyer students will be able to participate).

3. Write up all the suggestions and number them.

4. Ask the class how many there should be (you are aiming for a no more than 5).

5. Ask students to vote for their top 3. Each vote carries the same points.

6. Add up the points and on a fresh sheet of paper write out the new rule and pin on the wall.

7. Take a picture of the rules and Share in Clanbeat with the class or ask them to type the rules into their reflections.

5 - Setting Boundaries

Just as setting class rules provides foundation for class culture, managing expectations and setting boundaries in the first weeks back removes some of the stress and worry that surrounds uncertainty.  Furthermore it gives teachers the opportunity to practice Self Care.  We would suggest that you put a start and end to when you will respond to emails and messages.  Your ability to end the school day is critical to your wellbeing.  Think about what would work best for you. Below are some suggestions.

1. I will only respond to emails and direct messages during 10am to 5pm.

2. I will not be responding to any shared posts.

3. I will respond to wellbeing check-ins as soon as possible but not during holidays or weekends.

4. I get a LOT of emails and messages, please think if there is another student that might be able to help before you message me.

5. If its a general question please post in Q&A and only contact me if you don’t get a response.

6. In person is usually the best and quickest way to ask a question.

Acknowledging and noticing emotions validate the person. They will feel respected and valued when their emotions, not just their situation is validated.

6 - Sharing how we feel

This has been a difficult year full of uncertainty and loss. For many of us it has been very hard. It’s important that students and you as a teacher have an opportunity to create a safe space in which we can share some of the personal things we are feeling that we don’t mind others knowing.

1. Start by sharing one positive and one negative thing. For example:

a) It might surprise you but I didn’t sleep well last night because I was nervous about coming back to school.
b) I was really excited about seeing the PE teacher Mrs Hall, she’s my best friend.

2. Type these into your Reflections and share with the Class.

3. Explain how we will look at these reflections again at the end of the year and will discuss how we or our feelings have changed, if at all.

4. Ask your students to record some of their feelings in the reflections and to use the emojis to help keep track of their emotions.

5. They can keep these private or share with you or if they wish share with the class (only do this if you are confident they won’t be teased).

7 - Practice of checking our emotional health

Activating events can trigger feelings of stress, anxiety and discomfort. While these are normal emotions, having them over a prolonged period of time can negatively affect our mental health. As a teacher it would be wonderful to have the time to ask every student individually how they are feeling and respond accordingly. The honest truth is that while we are best placed to check in on emotional well being, we are without the time and resources needed to do it.

The Check-ins on the Clanbeat app allow us to pick appropriate time (e.g. back to school, before or during exams, during lockdown etc) and duration (2 weeks is recommended) to check in on those students. It comes with a teachers handbook which supports your responses. For more information on this or a Demo please contact [email protected] Try it with your class now!

1. From the home screen (Teacher / Leader login only) select: “Manage Groups”.

2. Pick the group you want to use the check ins with.

3. Select “Group Preferences”.

4. Select “Weekly” or “Daily”.


6. Two automated questions will be sent each morning and evening and you will have an oversight into how you students are doing when you look at the dashboard.

7. Contact [email protected] or [email protected] for further information on this feature or check out https://www.clanbeat.com/lets-talk-about-well-being/

Start your free trial with Clanbeat today!


Having a tough time with teaching online? We’re ready to assist! Reach out to us at [email protected]