What is Rapport and Its Main Principles?
For years I have been thinking about my own personal experience as a student with the different institutions, methodologies, and teaching styles that I have been introduced to within my life to improve as a teacher in education that didn't work for me as a student.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Maria A. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
I remember two main experiences that clearly demonstrate the importance of consciously working on building rapport with students. When I was in High School, I really enjoyed reading and learning about why we humans are how we are and I enrolled immediately as soon as I knew that an Introduction to Psychology class had been added to the electives. I was very curious and ready to absorb information like a sponge and I knew motivation wasn't going to be a problem in this class, as it was for other subjects.
A few students had elected Introduction to Psychology, which made it even better for me and we got to use the library, my favorite place of the school, for our classes. Things really couldn't get better and I remember waiting for Thursdays to have that subject. In the beginning, everything was fine, and I was so excited that every topic seemed fascinating and interesting for me but after some weeks passed by, I noticed I didn't like the teachers' perspective of the human being functioning (in psychological terms). My motivation and interest in that class dropped so hard that it even brought me down with it. I started doubting if I liked what I thought I liked and if what I wanted to do was actually what I was interested in. But I am not here to talk about my existential crisis. I am here though, to clarify some things about building rapport.
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Rapport isn't about thinking in the same way as students.
My problem with the experience I wrote above was that the teacher thought and taught his perspective as the only one worth doing it, as well as the only one that was right. As a teacher, I don’t expect to have the same perspective of life or other topics as my students, and as a student, I don't expect the teacher to agree with my thinking. I expect though to be taught fairly. And by fairly, I mean by involving all the theory even the one that the teacher doesn't like.
It is crucial to frequently go back to basics such as the name of the subject a teacher is teaching. My elective in High School was called Introduction to Psychology, which meant that at least the most relevant and strongest branches and schools of Psychology had to be taught. Naturally, and as a human being, teachers will enjoy and know more about certain topics. But don't make the lessons of what you like as a teacher, but of what the students need and are interested in. Even if it is about areas you don't like. This is teaching fairly.
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On the other hand, and once I had already been some years in College, I had to take a subject called Educational Psychology. By that point, I had told myself and my friends for a long time that I didn't know yet how to apply my career, but if I had something certain was that it wasn’t going to be in education. “I can do anything in psychology but education”, I used to say a lot. I entered the first lesson of Educational Psychology decided to not like it and to know it was going to be a pain.
Well, it surprised me. At a point, I can tell that that subject was what changed my career path. The teacher was fair and genuinely interested in the needs of the students. He had clear what his perspective and a psychological branch of education was, but he didn't let that blind the students. He could openly express his thinking when asked, and he would research topics he didn't know and that the students have expressed interest in. His aim wasn't to convince us of nothing nor to be liked, but for us to be passionate about learning. And within this teacher I learned that rapport isn't about being liked or being cool or agreeing on everything with students, but about being an instrument for learning.
In short words I can say rapport can be developed within these main aspects:
- Fair teaching
- A genuine interest in students´ needs and interests
- Not knowing is an open door for learning. Don’t close it by thinking teachers know it all.
- Teach to doubt everything, even of what you teach.
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In conclusion, rapport is based on being human, on knowing what your field and perspectives are, as well as what you don't like or agree with, but of not letting this come on the way on your student's learning.
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