Establishing RapportEstablishing rapport in the classroom is an integral component in helping students achieve their potential. Although, I am not an educator or a professional in the discipline and neither do I have any formal training, I have noticed the same dynamic in any field of endeavor that involves interpersonal relationships. It doesn't matter whether you are a psychotherapist dealing with patients or a salesperson convincing a client of the merits of a product or service. The principles are the same. When I was in the call center or BPO industry not too long ago, not only did I have to communicate information as a trainer to the trainees
and customer service representatives assigned to me, I also had to make an effort to get these individuals to feel a little more comfortable with certain company policies and operational procedures and to get them in turn to exhibit the same behavior with the customers and clients they speak with on the phone. So I didn't have to get into the nitty-gritty of rapport. They just picked it up and learned by example. Now that I am in the ESL industry, I deal with a different sort of client one-on-one. It's a little easier in a way because there is only one person per session but again it's the long-term relationship that you will always have to take into account in this kind of profession.
An environment where students develop a sense of belongingness, a sense of purpose and motivation can be facilitated and further enhanced by developing and maintaining rapport. This is fairly obvious as evidenced in a video attached to unit 10. An effective teacher can always devise ways to get the students to eagerly listen as well as to understand what he or she is telling them. The medium is just as important as the message. There are certain attributes that a teacher must possess to ensure a harmonious relationship in the classroom. These are just a few:
There is of course a learning curve as well as a process to all of this. A good working relationship is something that doesn't simply happen overnight. It takes time to learn and a certain degree of fortitude and persistence for the tasks ahead may seem daunting. It would always do well to remember that just as one individual is distinct from another so is one class from another. The teacher would have to tune in to each individual's wavelengths as well as tap into their talents and strengths. It has often been said that patience is a virtue.
The teacher's motivation and enthusiasm should be kept at an optimal level if he or she wants to inspire as well as to command the attention of the whole class. If the teacher appears bored or exhausted, he or she will not convince anybody else in the class to feel otherwise. The tone, demeanor and posture of the teacher count a lot. If the students see the teacher as someone worth listening to, they will listen. I have often heard the expression, "It's not what you say. It's how you say it." A positive attitude always produces positive results.
It is true that teachers have to set and manage parameters early on and they have to exude authority as well. I am sure that we all have had that experience as children
when we were in awe of our teachers. However, this doesn't mean that there should be a divide between the teacher and his or her students. Fear and intimidation have no place in a classroom. Although the teacher must be able impose rules effectively to maintain order and discipline, he or she must successfully convey the importance of learning early on. The rest will follow.
While it is a given that there has to be boundaries and limitations, it doesn't mean that the teacher should be inflexible, harsh or stern. Teachers want to succeed in teaching and students want to succeed in learning. A teacher's goal should never be antagonistic to those of the students in the class. It should always be win-win situation without a single loser. Think of it more along the lines of a partnership or collaboration with both the teacher and the student gaining everything. Rapport serves as the bridge.
Students, regardless of age, should be treated with utmost respect and fairness. They should be talked to, not talked over. Whatever their opinions, thoughts, inputs, ideas, efforts or mistakes, they must be shown courtesy and appreciation at all times. Above all, criticism should always be given in a constructive manner. If a little humor is in order, then the teacher should laugh with the students and not at them. Remember the Golden Rule.
As mentioned earlier, the teacher must be able to conceive of ways that would guarantee harmony, bonding and empathy. Here are but a few tips to establish rapport:
1) Come to work earlier than everyone else. Prepare everything you need.
2) Write pleasantries on the board even the names of all the students. Make them feel at home.
3) Once they arrive, engage in small talk. Take a genuine interest in them. It helps to know a few things about them. Listen to their stories and be approachable when they need anything.
4) Organize games, warmers and similar activities to help break the ice. The energy level will surely pick up.
Sources, References and Further Reading: