Establishing Good Rapport Between Teachers and Students
There are many important things to remember as a TEFL teacher if you're going to have a successful class and satisfied students, but perhaps the most important thing that could determine whether or not your class will fail or succeed and that is, of course, establishing a good rapport between you and your students the minute they walk in that door for the first time. It's very important that students feel comfortable, safe, welcomed, appreciated, encouraged, excited, and that they're treated with the utmost respect as their desire to learn will be greatly increased as they become more inclined to stay in your class and learn. There are several ways of achieving this that every TEFL teacher should know how to properly accomplish the goal and avoid creating bad rapport between the teacher and students.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate James L. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
For starters, a classroom should be a warm, welcoming, vibrant, colorful, and artistic environment, rather than a cold, unwelcoming, militaristic prison-like atmosphere. A good classroom should have a bright colorful paint-job, examples of student artwork decorating the classroom, a globe, world maps with all the countries, continents, regions, and so forth all labeled, posters with motivational quotes telling students they can be anything they want and never give up, and desks should be arranged in a fashion suited to the first lesson's activity. When the students arrive, this type of atmosphere will give them the impression of a classroom that embraces them and encourages creativity along with asking questions, classroom discussion and debate about relevant topics, and not having to worry about making mistakes, but what's especially important is that you the TEFL teacher, should have a smile on your face on the first day and be visibly enthusiastic about your job as students will pick up on that along with the classroom atmosphere.
Getting to know each other
Once the students have sat down and readied their supplies, the next step to establishing good rapport would be getting to know the students, understanding their interests, needs, wants, and reasons for wishing to join English (they can include everything from being a young learner to learning business English and everything in between), and avoiding the coursebook on the first day in favor of games such as "pass the ball" to elicit students to say something about themselves and who they are. Another way of establishing good rapport is encouraging the asking of questions, even ones you don't know the answer to as you can always find out and provide an answer during the next lesson, the encouragement of class discussion and debate about relevant (grade-level appropriate topics), allowing for mistakes as that's how we all learn as human beings, knowing the differences between mistakes and errors, not over-correcting all the time, not lecturing nonstop in monotone, the use of fun activities and pair work, and giving students the chance to speak. These actions, combined with a colorful vibrant welcoming atmosphere and a positive attitude from the teacher about their job, will produce freethinking students who will be more inclined to learn the English language and form their own opinions on the world around them.
Taboo things in the classroom
However, just as a warm, vibrant, colorful, and welcoming atmosphere combined with exciting activities, pair work, and a positive attitude can produce high-performing, freethinking, and enthusiastic students, a cold, dark, bland, unwelcoming, and prison-like classroom along with a "zero-tolerance" attitude towards asking questions, classroom debate and discussion, punishing all mistakes even on the first try, not allowing them to be themselves or have their own opinions and having a negative attitude towards students and the job will create disillusion among students and steer them away from learning the English language. This type of "zero-tolerance" and militaristic education-style is unfortunately very common in the United States public education system and there's a huge difference between education and indoctrination. Indoctrination and zero-tolerance militaristic education styles can traumatize students and deter them away from learning English, while a colorful creative welcoming atmosphere and allowing for open discussion, debate, mistakes to be learned from, and getting to know your student's needs and wants will produce enthusiastic, high-achieving, and freethinking students who are more likely to embrace the English language and your class on their own.
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In conclusion, establishing good rapport on the first day and creating a warm welcoming atmosphere along with having a positive attitude and outlook towards the job is perhaps one of the most important aspects of being a TEFL teacher, regardless of where in the world you are.
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