What is Rapport and How Does It Affect the Dynamics of an EFL Classroom?
Rapport in this context is the relationship between the students and the teacher, and among the student group within a classroom environment. Why is having rapport within a classroom important? Because without a friendly connection among the participants there is a real danger of disruption to the learning process.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Juri N.
The Two-Way Road of Respect
“Respect is a two way road,” this statement says that without one side or the other of the Street of Respect, respect is not there. Meaning, if the teacher does not respect the students and show the students that respect, then the students will not respect the teacher in return. This scenario can very easily ruin the teaching of a specific subject as the students will not have the intent to listen or behave. What a teacher, or student, should not do is think that they deserve acknowledgement and the utmost respect as a right, rather than gaining it for what they do to care and show respect for others.
Finding the Right Balance
If the teacher is too friendly at the start of a course or semester, then the students may think that the teacher is not serious, and think it is okay to mess around in the classroom. If the teacher was to go the opposite way, in thinking that the students should show utmost respect off the bat, than the students may think that the teacher is too strict and feel uncomfortable learning from him or her. It is difficult, however a teacher has to find that middle ground as soon as possible. This can be done by paying close attention to the students’ body language and engagement within the first lesson. Too much talk and messing around among the students can show an attempt to establish rapport too quickly before establishing discipline. And if the students appear shy and not at all interested in interacting and replying to the teacher, this could mean the teacher is coming off as to abrupt and needs to tone it down a little to show that he or she is willing to have fun and help in anyway so the students can get the most out of learning.
The Three Common Scenarios of Classroom Rapport
Rapport is something that can be overly established or not established at all in the classroom. Some teachers say they do not want to appear strict or mean, which is not incorrect, however there should be some discipline and times to show authority. In other cases, the teacher may think that without firm discipline the students will not listen or learn at all. In this scenario, the students may feel uncomfortable within the classroom and will not ask questions or feel motivated to learn the subject. The last scenario is a balanced rapport, which can be difficult to obtain especially with young learners. This rapport is where both the teacher and the students have a mutual respect for each other, allowing the lesson plans to run smoothly with little or no disruption.
A Brief Example of How to Establish Rapport in a New Classroom
A typical scenario for establishing rapport could go something like this: A teacher with a new group of students introduces herself very respectfully and has the students do likewise. After learning something about the students she could then make positive comments about some of the students’ interests. The students could then potentailly feel more comfortable and start to mess around a little, so without yelling the teacher stops what they are doing and says “I know this is new and exciting, but we really need to listen to learn because it's important.” (Using words like important can help to catch young learners' attention.) If the students still mess around, the teacher can then move the students onto an activity like, “okay everyone, one clap… now two claps… now three claps and a snap.” This gets the students back engaged into the lesson plan without raising the tone of voice. (With older students, a little bit of a stern tone and directing the discipline to a specific student may be necessary.) After a time, the students should learn the proper respect for the classroom and the teacher is able to teach the required topic of the day in a calm and productive manner.
Through this scenario, one might come to understand that rapport is a delicate but essential thing for the teacher to establish in order to enjoy teaching and for the students to enjoy learning from that particular class. Overall, it helps establish a fun, happy, and healthy environment.
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