How Relationships With Your Students Influence Their Learning Process
There are many different types of teachers in the world: funny ones, boring ones, excitable ones, monotonous ones, stern ones and ones that are just too laid back. In my lifetime, I have had many teachers and experienced many different types of teaching styles. As I considered all these in retrospect, I realized there was a common theme in the handful of teachers that had a special place in my heart. These are the teachers that not only communicated genuine care for me and my success but exuded enthusiasm for what they did. This life in them changed my perspective on subjects I had always detested, like algebra and calculus! These teachers have played a major role in my life and have encouraged and inspired many others who have been in their classrooms.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Heather H. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
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Desire to Learn
A teacher’s personability, perspective, and level of enthusiasm can make or break a student’s desire to learn the subject. It is safe to say that students will not give a teacher their attention, motivation or effort if they do not like, trust and respect him/her. This is why it is so important to establish and continue to build a sense of rapport with the students, both individually and as a group. This can be done immediately and over time.
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Firstly, establishing rapport immediately in a classroom setting rests on the shoulders of a good first impression. As J.K. Rowling once said, “A good first impression can work wonders.” The first time students meet a teacher can be pivotal in creating the atmosphere of the class. To master this art of creating a good first impression, the teacher needs to take the time before the first class to study and get to know the culture(s) of the students. Effort needs to be put into learning about their customs (the way they greet and show respect to each other), their standards (what does it mean to them for someone to look presentable?) and facts about their home countries/cities/towns (“Oh, you’re from Kabul? I hear the food in that city is amazing!”). Even if some of these things cannot be learned before the first class time, the teacher should make the effort to learn these things as he/she gets to know the class.
Upon meeting the class for the first time, the teacher should introduce himself/herself and share some personal information to create a sense of openness with the students. The teacher should learn their names and use them and encourage student-to-student interaction so that they can get to know each other as well if they do not already. Also, this would be a good time to play some ice-breaker games (like Two Truths and a Lie). The teacher should maintain enthusiasm, be involved in the games and show genuine enjoyment so the students can feel welcomed and excited about learning.
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Secondly, building rapport over time is more of a day-to-day, class-by-class affair. This part is, by no means, less or more important than establishing rapport. In the words of P.J. O’Rourke, “A firm, hearty handshake gives a good first impression, but you’ll never be forgiven if you don’t live up to it.” It is important to view each interaction with the class and students individually through the lens of strengthening the relationship. The teacher should be perceptive, sensitive and attentive to the different types of students in the classroom. He/she should consider personality types (Does this person prefers to be affirmed publicly or privately?), cultural background, mother language, etc… Another factor to consider is the types of learners—which ones are visual learners? Which are phonetic or auditory?) Even considering giving the students a simple test to determine what type of learner they are could be a great benefit to the success of the class in the long term.
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Another important factor in building rapport is to just have fun. Incorporating fun activities and games in the classroom and being genuinely enthusiastic with the students can have a monumental impact on their lives. It is important that the teacher makes an effort to be involved in these moments and show that he/she genuinely enjoys the job. This will create enthusiasm in them and will help to motivate them to learn the language even more. This is often referred to as the “mirror effect.” Students will often mirror attributes of the teacher that are strong in any particular moment. If the teacher comes into class with a long face and a depressed countenance, more than likely the student will begin to feel sad and lose motivation. Having fun in the classroom strengthens student-to-teacher relationships and helps with the overall atmosphere of the classroom.
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In conclusion, there are many more techniques and methods for establishing and building rapport I could mention that are by no means less effective. However, after many experiences in the educational field, these are the ones that I have seen to be the most effective. No one can compare the impact a single, life-giving, genuine teacher can have on a person’s life. This statement cannot be better summed up than in this Japanese proverb, “Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.”
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