How to Establish Rapport With Students in The ESL Classroom
The relationship a teacher has with their students or clients is critical to their learning experience. It is often overlooked and deemed unimportant, especially compared to the lesson itself. However, the rapport a teacher establishes is the foundation on which the class stands. It affects how the students feel about the class and sometimes helps motivate them as well. Good rapport with the students makes teaching a lot livelier and learning a lot easier.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Katherine S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Head of the class
In the hierarchy of the classroom, the teacher is at the top. Students come to take a course, expecting the teacher to know best and looking up to the teacher for help and support. The teacher has already before any impressions have been made, been established as an authority figure. Depending on the student, they may react to the authority differently. Some may take to an authority right away, but with others, it may take getting to know them a bit. A little understanding of the students that are in the class can go a long way. Being friendly and patient creates a welcoming environment, which helps comfort students in a potentially stressful situation. Being in a position of authority gives the teacher this power to create this foundation upon the start of the course, and continue to build upon it throughout.
Good and bad examples
In Unit 10: Video Lessons, two videos were shown of the same lesson being taught by the same teacher with the same students. The primary difference between the two classes was the way the teacher conducted himself. In the first video, he was very aloof and started the lesson right away. He took no time to connect with the students, not even learning their names. His attitude from then on out is impatient and slightly frustrating. The students seem reluctant to speak and participate. A couple of students even come in late, smiling, which seems to indicate their lack of concern for missing class. Though there is no direct correlation between this and the teacher’s behavior, in the second video the only thing that has changed in the classroom is how the teacher approaches his students. In the second video, he makes an effort to learn the students’ names and talk with them patiently. In return, the students are more eager to respond and participate. They are even more motivated to come to class.
The approach to relationships
Much like a job, the relationships that are formed could turn something monotonous or stressful into something enjoyable. When teaching a language, that is something a teacher should, at the very least, strive for, for students to enjoy the class. If the students feel negatively towards the teacher, then it is more likely that they are going to feel negatively towards the class by association. This is when it could start to affect their learning. It might not be so negative that they feel that they have to quit, but it could make them reluctant to ask questions, thus hindering their learning. All it takes for students to feel a little more comfortable is for them to feel that the teacher cares about them and their progress. This falls undertaking the time to ask them questions and getting to know them as more than just another face in the class. Questions about how they feel about the class or even how they like some of the activities could make them feel like their opinions matter and encourage them to take more interest in the course. Whether or not a teacher can meet the wants of the students in its entirety, acknowledging it to the students can still give the students some sense of having their needs heard.
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Rapport is an important factor to consider when teaching. It is something that does not take much time to establish and takes very little effort. Yet, it is one of the most important building blocks when teaching. With an established rapport, students benefit from the environment and can flourish, furthering their drive to learn.
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