Knowing how to build a good rapport with students is useful knowledge and seems to come naturally to some teachers. If this is something you’d like to develop, there are some useful tips below.
There is a famous poem by Spike Milligan where the first line states ‘A Smile is Infectious’. (You can read it here.) It’s so true. Smile and the world smiles back. In the UK there used to be a very old fashioned idea that you didn’t smile until Christmas with a class if you were a good disciplinarian. How miserable! The first step for building rapport is to give your class a welcoming smile. If your class lines up at the door like mine do, welcome them as they walk in with a friendly hello and smile. No one is drawn to a miserable face, your students included.
Learn Student Names
If you’ve ever read ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ you’ll know the importance people place on their own name. You need to not only learn students names but use them when talking to them. Sometimes there may be different ways to pronounce the same name, the simplest thing is to ask the student how to pronounce it and make a note of it phonetically in your planner. Tell the whole class that if you pronounce their name incorrectly to please let you know. There is an excellent blog post here on how to learn student names.
All people like to talk about themselves. Asking questions is a great way to get to know students and let them know you’re interested in them and a human being! Showing an interest in what they are interested in will definitely build a rapport. I love it when I find out we watch the same TV programmes. When you have something to enthuse about together, you very quickly build a rapport.
Outside of lesson time ‘be visible’ on the corridor, in the dining room, outside. This is a further opportunity to build rapport. Interact with students. Notice them rather than going blindly to your next task. Comment on a new haircut or smile and nod. Don’t force it as students will spot a phoney from a mile away; just smile if the conversation doesn’t come naturally. I’m not suggesting you try and be their best friend. You must, of course, reinforce school rules as you go through the day and students will respect that too.
Leave Your Problems at Home
Your students aren’t in school to listen to your problems. Sharing a little bit about yourself is a great way to bond with your students but keep it positive and keep it professional. I’ve overheard colleagues oversharing and it has just come across as unprofessional and shambolic. Students will talk to their parents and parents will form an opinion of you and maybe even complain. If your problems are so great that you can’t help but reveal them to your students, maybe you shouldn’t be in school? Everyone, including your students, is attracted to positivity.
If you have any good strategies on how to build rapport with students, please comment below.