Establishing Rapport with Chinese High School Students
Establishing rapport means to build a friendly, trustable and cooperative relationship between two parties. For teaching, it is an indispensable step to starting any satisfactory class. Having been a teacher for more than 1 year in China, I realize how important it is to establish rapport with the students before to ensure a successful class.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Jia L.
Differences between teachers and students
Since a teacher and students are playing different roles in a classroom, the distance between two sides is naturally born. Moreover, there are differences in the educational backgrounds and ages of the teacher and the students, which will probably contribute to a further distance in between, in the end. Under this circumstance, establishing rapport at the beginning lessons seems urgent and necessary! To elaborate on my views, I’m going to share my teaching experience in a Chinese international high school.
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The challenges a teacher may face teaching teenagers
High school students, aged from 16-18, are a group of learners with strong self-awareness and independence. When facing this group, the teacher can maintain disciplines more easily, teach complicated learning points more efficiently. However, the students can be disruptive in the class, be uncooperative, escape the assigned task, and even challenge the teacher in the class. This is because most of the students are demanding in teachers, for their growing traits in identifying, qualifying and judging. For them, teachers should be knowledgeable, eloquent, talented and decent in appearance. Consequently, if a teacher fails to show such an impressive image in the classroom, the class will possibly get less and less controllable, which can lead to unsatisfying learning results and negative feedbacks. There are also some students being uncooperative or disruptive, due to their low self-esteem and bad performance in English, pre-expectation of biased treatment and little attention from the teachers. Therefore, to win over these students and establish rapport (students with high expectation, students with low self-esteem), it is not only about delivering a good self-introduction but much more than that.
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Ways to solve possible problems
To establish rapport, it is vital for a teacher to prepare a funny yet educational self-introduction. Instead of hurrying to a course book, the teacher can start sharing with students his/her background stories in English, then ask some easy questions about the stories to lighten up the atmosphere and involve in the students, which allows the teacher to connect with the students greatly. After this, the teacher can fairly interact with the students so as to get closer to them and create a trustable supportive image. These steps, however, are soft moves of being friendly reasonable and communicative, which is good for nurturing friendship, not establishing rules and class code. Thus, class rules are supposed to be delivered clearly and firmly after. The rules should be clear, reasonable and conductible, and contain punishments and rewards. In this way, the students will find the teacher reasonable but not easy to fool at the same time. But readers may wonder how establishing rapport refers to respecting a set of rules. The experience rendered me the reason. As many of my students find difficulties in being self-disciplined and persistent, they often resort to me for help and admit the power of the teachers’ controlling and monitoring roles. Often times, the tough push from me wins their gratitude and respect. Students of this age know what is good or bad for them, and they can realize whether they are treated sincerely or not. So far, soft and tough moves are all incorporated in my perspective of establishing rapport, which does not mean it is the end of the story.
As we all know, one can never say that a fine relation can be nurtured within a few days. So does establish rapport. Whether the rapport can be further maintained and become stronger depends on the ongoing behaviors of the teacher. Is the teacher being consistently patient, reasonable and understanding? Is the teacher being strict on the rules and implementing them firmly? Is the teacher thinking critical for the sake of students? If all the answers are yes. Then, the reward and congratulations are to the teacher, as he/she can be sure that a safe and sound rapport exists. And as a result, the learning outcome should not be unsatisfactory.
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In conclusion, to establish rapport requires not only a good beginning but ongoing efforts. It demands the teacher not only to be a kind and supportive mentor but a tough rules-implementer. Establishing rapport is not easy, but definitely worthwhile.
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