10 Tips for Building Rapport with Students

Teaching is the art of imparting knowledge and making students learn by experience. There are so many teachers who understand this, and yet, so many who do not. For example, there are teachers whose lectures in class constantly centre around themselves; there are also those who do not ask their students questions – they just go on and on, talking and boring the entire class. Of course your students will lose interest and attention if you are one of them! It is important, therefore, to implement techniques on building rapport with students.

Teacher building rapport with classroom.

Building this special rapport gives your students confidence to ask questions, adds value to your class, and encourages everybody to stay focused on their work. Most importantly, it gives your students the courage to ‘confront’ you, and share their opinions. And isn’t this exactly what we are preparing them for? They have to go out in the world and reveal their true beliefs with boldness. That is what proves that you are a good teacher.

Tip #1: The sandwich method

I call this technique ‘sandwich method’ because there are three steps to it. When giving students feedback, we have to be gentle, but also harsh, if we want them to stop making the same mistakes again. So what is the best way to deliver it? The sandwich method of constructive criticism. You start with a very positive remark, go on to the harsh comment, and end with a positive remark as well. The pieces of bread represent the good remarks, while the ham or cheese (if vegetarian) represents the critique.

For instance, let’s imagine one of my students makes the same writing mistakes over and over again. He writes ‘their’ instead of ‘there’. When I give him feedback, I will start with something like this: ‘You did great writing this whole interesting paper by yourself, but you should never write “their” instead of “there” again, OK? I am so proud to have such a smart student in my class!’

Tip #2: Be yourself

Not all of us are made for teaching. There are some people who like dancing, others who enjoy maths, and some who are inspired by philosophy. If you think teaching is not fit for you, you can always switch careers. There is no point in sticking to what you don’t like. And while in other job fields your frustration would probably be unnoticeable for the people around you, teaching is not part of that field. Students can see if you don’t like teaching. You know why? Because you are constantly trying to be somebody else.

The key to successful teaching is staying true to who you are and living by your values. The best teacher does not fake smiles, or gets tired of teaching. The best teacher enjoys interacting with her students, and loves strong connections, which she develops constantly. The best teacher is a person who is not afraid of putting herself in an uncomfortable situation. She is so shameless and so proud of her willingness to share everything with her students that she won’t stop being herself.

Tip #3: Find their interests

If you are interested in connecting with students, you should probably get to know them better. Create activities that help you understand their hobbies and passions, and use them to bring pupils closer to you. For instance, take them out for a film, and talk about it after. Analyse what they liked and what they didn’t, and listen to their opinions on the action. What did they think about the characters? To whom do they identify the most and why? 

Young students writing.

Tip #4: Attend extracurricular events

Sometimes, our students get so attached that they invite us to different activities outside of class. This is a big step towards a great student-teacher rapport, and this is also a great way to make learning more meaningful to them. If you have the necessary time, don’t hesitate to go. It’s not ‘weird’, ‘odd’, or ‘unusual’. These things happen all the time.

Tip #5: Design a comfortable classroom

In order to have an open environment, you will need bright, warm colours on your walls, and possibly some nice drawings. Ask the school board for permission, and then start working on your classroom. You can add ‘trademarks’ of your students on the wall, or make them draw something every day until there is no more space to write on.

What I you can do is to keep litres of paint in the classroom, and whenever somebody answers a question correctly, he or she can stick their hands in the paint and then stick it to the wall. Their red/yellow/blue/green palms on the wall means they have contributed to class. And I am telling you, that proud moment of glory will serve them as an incentive to contribute again.

Tip #6: Respect

An important form of respect in the classroom could be saying ‘hi’ or ‘bye’ every time someone leaves the class. If it’s you who is leaving first, you have to say ‘goodbye’ first. If it’s them, they have to. It makes students feel like their presence is essential in class. This detail, although apparently small, will establish a better connection with your dear students.

Tip #7: Everyday life lessons

Having intelligent discussions and teaching them something new academically is great. But do not forget about life. Teaching your students life lessons through different activities is extremely valuable. It develops their emotional intelligence, which is extremely important to have. You can set up morning meetings for people to share their feelings on different matters. At the end of each day, you can make them highlight the most important actions they have taken. Stay sincere and make them be honest with their feelings as well.

Tip #8: Be playful

Children are playful, so if we want them to learn something, we have to play their games. I am not saying play hide and seek in the playground – I am talking about asking random facts or telling funny stories to them. Even making up a funny game can be a good idea.

Imagination is essential when we talk with children. Make them tell you the most interesting hero stories they know, and ask them if there is anything they would change about those stories. If the answer is yes, ask them to draw that change for you; or, if older, make them write a composition about it. If they make mistakes when writing, never punish them. Use the sandwich method, and offer them constructive criticism. Be playful like a child in the classroom, while of course, keeping the duties of a teacher.

Building rapport: students having fun.

Tip #9: You can’t read minds

When you don’t understand a certain student’s behaviour, ask – never assume. This is a very common mistake teachers make, and it is wrong. Assuming your students ‘slam their books on their desks because they are angry at you’, or ‘didn’t do their homework because they played video games’ is very harmful for your relationship with them.

Always ask them why they react a certain way, and keep an open mind to understand their problems. If they have serious issues (maybe family-related), make sure you take action.

Tip #10: Building rapport with their families

Families play a crucial role in how students react at school. So include them in your teaching strategy. Why not throw a barbecue party at your house and invite all of your students. Ask them to bring their families, so you can meet them. This is a great way to bond with the people ‘behind the curtains’ and understand where certain behaviours in your students come from.

Takeaway

Building rapport with students is essential in being a teacher. It is not enough to master your subject – You have to master your emotions, and open yourself in front of your students. You have to keep an open mind, and never be afraid of losing. Your students’ confidence in themselves and in yourself comes from acceptance, broad-mindedness, and interest. These feelings might be one-sided at first, but as time goes by, I am sure your students will start getting more involved.

A great video by TEFL & TESOL Courses – ITTT on building rapport with students.

This article was originally posted on Psychreg by Dennis Relojo-Howell.

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Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg. He writes for the American Psychological Association and has a weekly column for Free Malaysia Today.