• Establishing Rapport

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    I remember back to my early days of academic progression through the Australian public school system with mixed emotions. In the main, English (and other subjects for that matter) were laboriously taught “strictly by the book”, by uninteresting individuals in droning monotone, that failed to instill any ongoing interest in either the subject matter, or the lesson as a whole. My attention unerringly moved to watching the second hand on the clock excruciatingly slowly, rotate through three hundred and sixty degrees, marking the completion of that minute and the start of the next, that would eventually culminate in the required number of minutes being completed to conclude the lesson and the hasty, mass exodus from the classroom, at great risk to life and limb, by all and sundry. My sketchy and absent minded notes, scribbled whilst thinking about what I was going to eat at lunch, or do with friends that afternoon or on the weekend, in no way, served to illustrate or reinforce the point of the lesson and I found myself frantically consulting the text book for hours on end, to catch up when revision tests and exams came around.

    On the other hand, I recall with great fondness, those inspiring individuals who made it their business to establish a rapport with each and every student in the class. They were always in class before the scheduled lesson time and spent those few minutes to greet, chat or share a joke, with each student as they arrived. These teachers were adaptable to the individual demeanor of each student. Their lessons were delivered with an element of fun, passion and creativity and always focused on getting the core lesson points up on the board, eliciting the material from the students and reinforcing the lesson point, by allowing the students to interact, self correct and problem solve as a group. Suitable focus was given as required, to allow the quieter students to participate, whilst maintaining the enthusiasm of the more outgoing students.

    The rapport that was established by these free thinking souls, was instrumental in securing the attention of myself and my peers, for the duration of the lesson, which went by so surprisingly and appreciatively quickly. The notes taken in class were minimal, but of great value, due to the effective delivery of the lesson. This resulted in a lot less time spent on homework. The rapport established was further evident, when upon the lessons conclusion, the hasty retreat phenomena was minimal, as students leisurely and orderly filed out, or stayed back for a departing joke, or discuss a point of concern with an obviously interested mentor.

    My best grades and academic outcome were always a result of studying in the classroom of those teachers who understood the value of and knew how to go about establishing rapport with their charges, by showing an interest in each individual and delivering interesting, creative and fun lessons in a relaxed atmosphere. The respect earned by these teachers negated any need to be a dominating authoritative force in the classroom in all but the most extreme circumstances and more often than not, peer group pressure soon put an end to any negative issues.

    And so it is, as I embark upon a new and exciting English teaching career, that I hope to draw from and emulate, the successful teaching strategies and rapport building abilities of those inspiring individuals that have gone before me and shown by their example, the way of the future.

    “Carpe’ Diem” - “Seize the day!” as Robin Williams’ teacher character “John Keating” said in Dead Poets Society, my most favorite and inspiring movie of all time. . Now there was a teacher, who knew how to establish rapport!

    Daryl Henley


  • Establishing Rapport

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    As I haphazardly made my way through the British school system, I was heavily influenced , in one way or another, by all of the teachers who were in involved in my education.

    I don’t remember noticing at the time, certainly not in the beginning, but now that I’m more or less a grown up, I can look back and understand.

    While each educator had an influence, there were varying degrees of the positive and the negative. The teachers who understood their students, who could relate to them, who established a solid rapport, are the ones I really learned from.

    On the other hand, there were teachers who held firmly to their authoritarian code, seemingly preferring to control a mass of people, rather than teach us.

    A good rapport is based on understanding, on empathy, respect and trust. It comes from a genuine understanding on the teacher’s part. Archaic discipline and a silent, formal classroom are not conductive to learning. This should be referred to only in the past tense.

    The rarer, more genuine teachers I encountered truly wanted to help their students through involving them in the lesson, and interacting on a human level. Rapport is not necessarily an innate ability, it can be learned And developed, like any other social skill.

    Establishing rapport allows for an open classroom environment where the teachers know the students and the students understand the teachers.

    This is because rapport allows for laughter in the classroom, and usually it’s at a reasonable level since students want to learn and to listen, as opposed to simply waiting for a lesson to end. That connection is key. The enthusiasm to provide knowledge with full participation of the students breaks down barriers like confidence, pride, or even ability.

    When I encountered teachers who did not bother to establish a rapport, I was, simply, uninterested in what they were saying and why they were saying it. I just took it for granted that they weren’t saying it to me until they started shouting. They were, by and large, the kind of teachers who needed a class to conform to their idea of what a good student should be. Lessons were a chore and were not engaging.

    Teaching without rapport, without enthusiasm, can give students the impression that they are simply an obstacle to be overcome so that the teacher can go home.

    Another big reason that rapport is important, is that, ultimately, students learn not from books, or even from teachers, but from themselves. An established rapport enables a teacher to bounce ideas around the class in order to engage otherwise shy students who have found their confidence. If students want to listen, if they’re shown something interesting, then they will, and in listening they will learn. Beyond that, in communicating with other students and asking questions, they’ll develop a good base knowledge of the given subject, available for them to access at will.

    The importance of rapport in the classroom is that it can be used to build the foundation of a lesson, and hold the attention of students. Without it, lessons lack a verve, and students will never see what their teacher wants them to.

    Jonathan Gowland

  • Establishing Rapport in the Classroom

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    The rapport between a teacher and their students plays a very important role in determining if the class will be successful and enjoyable. Students are often very hesitant to speak out in class for a variety of reasons. Questions go unasked and unanswered; students remain silent because they are afraid to lose their self-esteem by being put down in front of their classmates and peers.

    Rapport is a tricky subject to understand and this is probably the reason that the majority of literature on teaching ignores it. ‘Rapport has been avoided in favour of other variables, such as teaching, modes of testing, and techniques of assessing teaching effectiveness, which can be more readily conceptualised and manipulated’ (W.Buskist and B.K Saville).

    Tickle-Degnen and Rosenthal (1990) identified three components in the structure of report. The first, mutual attentiveness relates to the “feeling as one” and implies shifting the focus away from self and towards others. The second, being positive, is described as a sense of “mutual friendliness and caring”. The third, co-ordination, is the predictability and balance in the relationship.

    However, the importance of each component varies over time. As individuals get to know each other and feel more comfortable, the importance of positivity decreases as the communication tends to become more open and honest. Oppositely the importance of co-ordination increases as the relationship progresses. This can be shown in the example of a football team as the assumption is made that the more the team practice together the co-ordination between players will improve as the individuals on the team interact with each other. The only constant through the relationship is mutual attentiveness as this supports the development of co-ordination and reduces the importance of positivity. This can be shown by the following diagram.

    An increase in the level of rapport leads to a multidirectional flow of ideas as students are encouraged to voice their opinions and derive meaning from the information they share (Howard-Hamilton, 2000). Basically, rapport provides the base from which learning can take place.

    One of the problems with building rapport is that the process can be time consuming. A way to combat this can be in the simple form of a questionnaire handed out at the beginning of term or at first contact. This can be a very effective way for a teacher, who has very little extra time to spend getting to know a student on a personal level, to be able to make a connection with the student by knowing their interests and dislikes.

    There have been many studies undertaken which ask students to describe the key qualities in a teacher that help to build report and hence make a huge contribution to the effectiveness of the teacher. I have examined these and found the attributes, characteristics and practices that appear time and time again.

    Neil Farquhar


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