Building rapport in the classroom Building rapport is one of the most
Building rapport is one of the most important steps to ensure a good learning environment, ESL or otherwise. By building rapport you learn more about what is important to your students and can make your teaching more authentic and meaningful. It will make all the difference in your students' enjoyment of the class.
Rapport is defined as 'Relationship, especially one of mutual trust or emotional affinity.' Jerome Stark of The Coaching Clinic recommends five steps for building rapport. The first step is to be curious about the other person. People respond to those who are genuinely interested in them. Secondly, when asking questions of others, be certain to give them time to respond. Once again, this shows that you are interested in them and is a sign of respect. The next step draws on Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques by suggesting that you mirror their demeanor. You can learn a lot about a person through observation. A good percentage of all communication is conveyed nonverbally. That includes eye contact, body language, voice tone and one's self talk. NLP experts advise building rapport by mimicking these nonverbal cues. For example if your student is speaking slowly and softly he or she will feel at ease if you are doing likewise. The fourth suggestion is to focus intently on them, free from distraction, so that they feel that you regard them as important. Lastly, to demonstrate that you understand where they are coming from, tell them about similar experiences or thoughts. This will develop a level of trust which is crucial to building rapport.
While that is all good advice, I feel these and other formulaic recommendations for building rapport can be insincere by virtue of their coming down to a process that you take on. Rapport is something that comes naturally. It is just a matter of caring about your students and really being present. Meditating and breathing before class is a perfect way to clear the mind and become more present. When you relax into it and let go of any seriousness you may have from preparing for class, your openness will be apparent to your students and will invite more interesting conversations.
Of course every teacher will encounter students with difficult personality types that they might not otherwise not develop an affinity towards. Rapport is not about getting approval or being liked though it can certainly be an outcome. In these cases rapport can be developed by trying to understand what the student's underlying need is and how to satisfy that need in some way . One example of a difficult personality type would be the power junkie. The power junkie will interrupt, squelch ideas, boss people around and intimidate others as a means to feel in control. Their insecurities can be appeased by giving them recognition for their strengths and communicating what is needed while avoiding power struggles.
The basis for any successful student-teacher relationship is rapport. The first class is a time for the fun of getting to know your students and providing opportunities so they can get to know you and your classmates as well. That can occur through games or simply through conversation. From then on each class should begin with a point of personal connection with one's students and proceed in a way that makes all students feel welcomed and valued.