Creating a positive feeling between you and your students is a very basic building block for successful teaching. With a good rapport, even the most difficult students will bend to your will. Without it, even good kids will act out and play up. So how does one go about creating rapport with students?
- Use names. Learn names, pronounce them correctly, and use them whenever you speak to the students. This is the proverbial, ‘I see you,’ and if a student thinks you don’t know their name (after the first week of school), they feel hurt and invisible. Names are also all-important in discipline, and students who feel like acting out are more likely to do so if they think you don’t know who they are.
- Get to know the kids. Make use of those valuable minutes at the start and end of class, and make those hated lunch duties pay off, by honing in on a group of kids or a particular kid, and learning more about them. Especially the naughty or loud ones. Kids want to feel seen and heard, and they want to be understood, even the ones putting on the biggest acts like they don’t care. Chat and laugh with these kids and you will have allies for life. Find out what they are good at, and what they are doing around the school. Encourage them, congratulate them, smile and say hi in the corridors. We all like to feel noticed and appreciated.
- Expect the best of them. We all tend to live up to the expectations people have of us. Don’t talk down to them. Express surprise when they act poorly, and look for the underlying issue rather than making a huge deal about the behaviour. Tell them you know they will try their best. Set positive goals for the class.
- Be real. If they ask an appropriate personal question in an appropriate setting, answer it. There is nothing to gain by always resisting distraction. Sometimes a good story from your own life to make a point relevant to class smacks just enough of time wasting to make them happy. And everyone loves a good story. Just don’t go on and on about yourself.
- Do your disciplining respectfully. Where you can, speak with students quietly or individually, to allow them to save face and to discourage them from putting on a defensive act for their friends. Lean down and say to them, ‘Hmm, you’ve got yourself another warning, too bad. I wouldn’t get any more though, or you’ll find yourself working alone in my office. I suggest closing mouth and getting on with it. :)’ When this is not possible, try to be lightly matter-of-fact about things – if you give a friendly smile while you discipline them, most kids won’t get argumentative or angry. If you have a good relationship with the kids, and you’re genuine about it, this can be a most effective discipline style. Also, you must get into the habit of finding and chatting to repeat offenders out of class. They are more receptive out of the class environment and more likely to listen when you’re taking up their lunchtime. Plus there is less of a what-happens-in-class-stays-in-class vibe. They need to know you’ll follow through.
- Be relevant. Stay up with current movies, books, news, and words (urban dictionary.com can come in handy). Use but don’t overuse this knowledge. You’re trying to be in touch, not one of them. You don’t have to pretend you like things you don’t, you just have to be aware. If it is appropriate, include current things in your teaching. Ie: an incriminating snap chat image could be a writing prompt, or a current top song could be a comprehension text. Just don’t be a dinosaur. 😉
- Feed them. I never met a kid who wasn’t hungry. Ha. You don’t have to spend lots of money providing regular snacks.. but a lolly now and then to a perfectly working class makes them feel recognised. And those reluctant boys will really get into a class quiz if there is food involved. What’s that saying, ‘The way to a kids heart is through his stomach??’ Have at least a couple of class events with food in the year – what about eating a food mentioned in a book or text after you read the chapter? Just don’t expect to do anything else while they eat – and do it at the end of a class so that you can send them off to lunch hyped up, instead of trying to rein them in again!
Hopefully these tips make your coming year just a little easier! And of course, a list like this is never exhaustive. Let me know if you think I’ve missed any of the other big items that help to create rapport in your classroom! And have a great day 🙂