The word rapport originates from the French word, rapporter, meaning to bring back and the Oxford English Dictionary definition is one of &#147;a close and harmonious relationship in which there is common understanding&#148;. But what is the reality of rapport and is it of any importance in the classroom? With so many teaching methods, practises, aids and testing means at a teachers disposal, do we even need to spend time considering rapport and trying to build it with students? The short answer is most definitely yes. Rapport is a key characteristic of human interaction. It is a commonality of perspective. It is about basic interaction at every level. The relationship and rapport developed between a teacher and their students is a vital ingredient in the success of any lesson and in aiding students to learn. So how does a teacher go about building any sort of rapport with their students? I don&#146;t have any experience or background in psychology but based on my experience in the classroom so far, I can offer the following observations. Be the first to arrive and the last to leave. You want your students to feel welcome when they arrive and similarly don&#146;t go rushing out of the room as soon as the lesson ends which will give the impression you can&#146;t wait to leave.
Get to know your students. Learn their names and use them through out the lesson. Ask your students about their hobbies, where they work, what they are studying but more importantly, remember what they tell you and use it. Build this information in to the lesson if possible to make the learning more personal through relevant examples. Classes are made up of individuals and each student brings a range of experiences. Use this and ask for their opinions and thoughts as it is a great way to encourage and stimulate conversation.
Reward, reward, reward. Encourage students for any effort they make. Never tell a student they are wrong, put them down, laugh, ridicule or criticise. Why would a student continue to make any effort if they were to get this sort of response and why would they want to come to class? Through encouragement and recognition of effort you start to create a safe environment where students will feel free to answer and ask questions. Above all, if you take this approach, then your student&#146;s confidence will grow which is an essential element for successful learning.
Patience may be a virtue but it is a basic fundamental in the classroom. Allowing your students time to think and to process information is essential. Don&#146;t go jumping in or hurrying them along when waiting for a response and allow their peers to help out. It is amazing if you show your students a little patience coupled with encouragement, what they will deliver.
Use your body. Eye contact is especially important. Try and use lots of gestures, non-verbal responses and smile. Don&#146;t just listen to their answers, watch your students for their responses. Look for clues in their faces, watch their reactions to what you are saying &#150; are they really getting it, do you have their attention? The response in your student&#146;s faces will tell you an awful lot.
Interact with your students. Teachers are not chained to the board so move about and get in the room with them. Walk around, help them out when they are completing work sheets and check that your students are on course at all times.
Honesty is needed on so many different levels. If you don&#146;t know the answer to something, be honest and tell your students you will find out and let them know later. Do not try and fake your style as it is essential to be yourself. Students will see straight through you otherwise and besides, trying to keep up an act or a persona takes far too much effort and will probably not actually get you very far.
Learn from your students. They will teach you an awful lot about how to teach, what works, what doesn&#146;t work and about yourself. Teaching is an ongoing learning process and no matter how much theory you learn, the reality is in the doing. The response you get from your students is the true bench mark as to how well you have done.
Above all enjoy! If you are not enjoying the class, the chances are your students are not as well so take it as a warning sign that something is wrong.
Granted, all this takes time and effort but it is worth it. You will get that &#147;wow factor&#148; the first time you realise that your students have remembered your name and that they are responding to what you are saying and they are actually learning. Or that they are being pro-active and enjoying the class and are not afraid to ask questions. Or they ask you when you will be teaching them again as they have enjoyed the lesson. You will feel fantastic and everything you have done is worth while. If you don&#146;t, then maybe you are in the wrong job.
Author: Jo Mason
Date of post: 2007-02-06