Written by Russ Gadzhiev, PhD
“Rapport is the ultimate tool for producing results with other people. No matter what you want in your life, if you can develop rapport with the right people, you’ll be able to fill their needs, and they will be able to fill yours.” – Tony Robbins
“The most effective way to achieve right relations with any living thing is to look for the best in it, and then help that best into the fullest expression.” – J. Boone
“Many believe effective networking is done face-to-face, building a rapport with someone by looking at them in the eye, leading to a solid connection and foundational trust.” – Raymond Arroyo
What does “rapport” mean? And why do we need to establish rapport with our students? Rapport can be defined as a relationship filled with harmony because of which effective communication takes place between individuals. This harmonious relationship is often accompanied by good work outcomes. Rapport is also based on two main pillars trust and respect.
Truth be told, rapport is not a learning outcome that teachers hope to achieve when teaching their students. However, it is undoubtedly a very important means of boosting students’ motivation and inciting them to learn and be curious. If a teacher and their students have a good rapport, it means that the teacher knows a lot about their students. The teacher is aware of their interests, tastes, type of personality, what makes them sad or happy, their background, story of their life and so on.
You may ask a reasonable question – why does a teacher have to know all of that? The answer is simple: these are the ingredients that make up a good rapport. If people have a good rapport that means that they are more likely to work well together, and they understand that they have common goals. Rapport also means that these people enjoy each other’s company. Rapoport means that people respect one another.
It goes without saying that all human beings are extremely social creatures. Whatever someone else says or thinks about us – matters to us a lot. We are naturally predisposed to be drawn to people who respect us, and we tend to avoid people whom we do not like. The same holds true when we are talking about the teacher-student relationship. If students like you as a teacher, they will look forward to seeing you. They will work harder in your class; their attendance will improve significantly too. Here is another interesting fact: when students are not particularly fond of a specific topic, good rapport with their teacher can help them look at the topic with fresh eyes and begin to like it.
Now, imagine that students for some reason have an issue with your class. Or maybe dislike you for some reason. Even if you are a great teacher with a wealth of experience and amazing expertise, if your students lack respect towards you, no amount of expertise on your side will make them want to study.
A good rapport between teachers and students is essential for a smooth and productive educational process. Teachers should always strive to get to know their students better and understand what motivates them and informs their behaviour. Unfortunately, in many cases, building rapport is not an easy thing. Truth be told, some of us, teachers, may see hundreds of students a week and building rapport with each one of them is indeed a formidable task. Another problem is that rapport is not something that can be developed instantly. It takes time. However, there are several tips that will help you quickly build rapport with your students. Here are some of them:
Get to Know All of Your Students’ Names
If you have a new class, make sure that you learn their names quickly. How can you do that? By frequently using them. The more you use your students’ names, the more likely you are to memorize them quickly. If you are struggling or if there are many students in your new class, you can draw a quick seating plan on a piece of paper for your reference.
There is another way of memorizing your students’ names – ask them to get a piece of paper and write their names on it and put it on their desk in a way that you can see. If you are teaching an online class, you should not struggle at all – many platforms such as Zoom automatically display the names and last names of its users.
Have One-on-One Conversations with Your Students
This tactic is especially important for building rapport with students. When you spend one on one time with your students, you demonstrate to them that you value them and that you care about them.
During these one-on-one conversations, you can ask them a variety of questions (be mindful of whether they are willing to tell you about their life outside the classroom or not). You can ask them about their weekend, extracurricular activities or what else they are doing outside class to improve. Truth be told, such one-on-one conversations are probably the best way to build a meaningful connection between you and your students.
Allow Students to Get to Know You as Well
Building rapport is not a one-way street. It should work both ways. So, for example, if you want to get to know your students, then your students should be able to get to know you too! You can, for example, share some life stories from your experience, and show them a photo of your family. You can also let your students know about you through guessing games. These can be used as effective icebreakers too.
Researchers have found that online classes do not necessarily hamper personal communication between teachers and students if both are willing to share something personal about themselves. When teaching an online class, you could give a glimpse of your house to your students. Or, for example, you can show them your pet – be that your cat or dog.
Foster Interaction and Collaboration Among Students
It is true that when students are encouraged to work in teams or solve problems as part of a team, they become more respectful toward one another. They become productive too. The environment in class tends to be more welcoming and this can help shy students feel comfortable.
Keep In Mind All the Small Details About Your Students
The earlier you get to know your students, the earlier you will be able to identify potential problems that can get out of control. Try to demonstrate a sincere interest in your students as individuals. You will see that your students will be more motivated, and they will feel grateful. Even the smallest gestures of attention can be important – writing a short congratulatory message on a student’s paper, asking students about their day, or sharing a funny story with them.
In this short article, we have examined five quick ways of building rapport with students (of course, there are many more and sometimes teachers are able to see what ways of building rapport are more effective for their students).
Building rapport is an important investment in the future success of your classes. And, frankly speaking, building rapport can also have immediate benefits too. When teachers and students have a good and healthy rapport, the classroom environment is very propitious for learning, sharing and other positive interactions. Students feel safe from judgment and harsh criticism, they are not afraid to make mistakes or ask questions. Moreover, they are not afraid to explore new things and step into the unknown.
Experienced teachers understand the value of good rapport very well. They know that the better their rapport with students is, the better they will be able to manage their classroom. Good rapport is an effective way to nip all behavioural problems in the bud. Finally, rapport is extremely important as far as online education is concerned. Indeed, the better rapport you have with your students, the more likely they will be to stick to your class and participate in classroom activities. If you want to learn more about the existing strategies to motivate your students, check out our recent Shiminly articles for more information.
Russ Gadzhiev obtained his PhD in history and politics from University of Melbourne. He also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia and effectively communicates with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. He is enthusiastic about teaching and mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish and Portuguese.