Rapport With Students From Day 1
Establishing rapport with students can be challenging sometimes, especially if this is a class of students who’ve already had different teachers or the students change around a lot. When there is inconsistency in teaching style or people, it can be more difficult for students to create a more meaningful bond. One of the key things I’ve always found in establishing rapport is to be friendly, positive, kind, consistent and understanding. There are different ways a teacher can show this. The way s/he introduces her/himself and shows interest in students initially, the level of professionalism displayed, the teacher’s attitude towards students, the reward system put in place and the expectations set among many others. I have broken these down individually per paragraph below.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Maria K. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Being welcoming when students arrive by smiling, introducing oneself and asking them for their names, as well as some basic information that they would feel confident sharing (taking into consideration current language level) to build the relationship between the student and the teacher, as well as between the students themselves is the foundation to building rapport. It’s also beneficial for the teacher to share some information about themselves throughout the classes and activities when relevant, as long as professional boundary is maintained.
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Being well dressed, having a positive attitude, being kind and patient with students is crucial. This can be done by allowing them to make errors, correcting them gently and only when needed and providing them with plenty of positive feedback to boost their confidence. Being well organized and being confident also establishes professionalism, which in turn results in students trusting the teacher and feeling calmer in lessons. This means the teacher must be good at preparing content effectively and flexibly to support the class, be prepared to have to change activities suddenly by having alternative content prepared, and know it well enough to give clear and concise instructions that the students can follow with confidence.
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The attitude and the energy a teacher comes into the classroom will massively affect the rapport of the class. For example, if a teacher were to come to class all flustered, unprepared and anxious. Likely, the class would then develop that attitude and ‘feel’, especially if this were to persist within the teacher. This would then likely lead to poor rapport with the teacher due to low respect and belief in the teacher’s ability. This could then also leak into the rapport with other students. On the other hand, if a teacher comes in with a fun but firm attitude, the students can have fun during the activities, but have the respect of the teacher so that when s/he speaks the students listen and absorb. That is the ideal world where the teacher has a balance of both. This requires establishing set boundaries from the beginning (spoken about in separate paragraph), and often coming in a little bit stricter, loosening up as the teacher goes along. It is much harder to gain respect later rather than sooner within the class. If the teacher acquires a positive and respectful attitude, there is much more they can later do with the class, knowing they can easily control it.
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The teacher must acknowledge when the class does well as well as when individuals do well. It can boost rapport massively giving individual feedback to students, as they feel heard, seen and appreciated. However, the teacher must be aware of how much s/he acknowledges the students. Praise must be equal across students, and a teacher does not show favoritism to any particular student which would not be productive in creating positive rapport. Depending on the age group, it can be useful to have competitions going between groups of students throughout the week and change around the groups each week to encourage a high standard to work. This could be limited to some games the teacher plays during the study or activates phases that s/he chooses. This has to be designed depending on the group, age level and activities have to be created around this, but it has been proven to massively increase productivity and sense of accomplishment. By ensuring students are happy and engaged, it ensures that rapport is continually built between the teacher and students.
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Setting clear expectations from the beginning can be incredibly beneficial, and to some students very calming and reassuring. For example, explaining how the teacher likes to work, what s/he expects from students (eg. when I speak you listen), setting respect boundaries (I will respect you and in turn, it is kind to give respect back) and breaking things up. What is also incredibly powerful at building rapport is encouraging students to give open feedback to the teacher in terms of how things are run in the class, or having an anonymous feedback box. This makes them feel included in the decisions and the running of the course that they are paying for.
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All these things can play a massive part in how the students end up reacting to the teacher in the future. It can be very beneficial to the students for the start of the first class to be mainly based on getting to know each other to develop on building rapport and getting to know each other, as this can reduce the potential of tension in the future which could result in lower learning, more tension between students/ teacher and among students themselves which could all decrease the enjoyment and effectiveness of the whole course. In the end, without good rapport, it is much harder to get results from students and get good results.
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