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Establishing rapport in the classroom Establishing rapport in the classroom
Establishing rapport in the classroom is one of the fundamental aspects of helping students' reach their potential when learning English. A classroom where the students are motivated, feel included, believe that they are contributing in a worthwhile manner, and where they feel safe, can all be enhanced because of good rapport being established between the teacher(s) and students, and amongst the students themselves.
There are many different ways of a teacher establishing rapport. Often it will take time for a new teacher to learn how to do this, and each class is different from the next. However, remaining calm, positive and approachable are all vital to establishing rapport. A teacher is the leader of the class and has to set boundaries early on however, boundary setting does not mean that the teacher reinforces a hierarchical gap between him or her self and the students. Students should be treated respectfully at all times (no matter what age), and it will become apparent to them that they are in an environment conducive to learning English. They will soon become aware that their opinions, answers, efforts, and even their errors are all appreciated, as all aid the learning process. It is fairly natural that a student (especially younger students) may want to do their best because of a good relationship with their teacher whom is seen as a mentor and motivator. It is also common that students will continue their studies if they feel like they are achieving and are being given the best opportunities for success.
There are several ways to understand your class, and to know if a good relationship amongst the teacher and students exists. The teacher needs to be alert and observe students' body language. If students are bored, tired and feel like the class is just wasted time, they will soon show it through their body language. Although a teacher may have good rapport with a class, they still may find that the students get bored etc. However, it will be easier for the teacher with good rapport to pick the class 'up' if they are aware of sinking energy levels etc. Bena Gul Peker believes that ''by establishing rapport, we can create bonding, affinity, empathy, and harmony, all of which are essential in the classroom' .
Maintaining rapport as well as establishing it is also essential. Teachers must be viewed by their students as flexible and fair. Don't bring personal issues into the classroom, and if there have been prior issues with a student, let it go. Never ridicule your students, and try to give criticism discreetly, and above all, fairly. Students need teachers whom they respect. Likewise, the teacher's motivation needs to be keep at an optimal level as 'enthusiasm is contagious; it commands attention and inspires concentration. The behavior of students will rarely be a problem when they are interested and focused on the subject matter.'
To establish rapport on more specific level, start at day one and continue to make the effort as the year proceeds. Taking an genuine interest in your students, knowing little things about them and their families, asking how they are, listening and being approachable are all vitally important. From the beginning, encourage the students to get to know each other (remember their names and use them!), and mix students up into differing sets of working companions etc. from time to time. Play games that help the students to know each other and become familiar with each other to make everyone feel comfortable. Three suggestions that were suggested by Brenda Smith and Phil Race in order to establish rapport are arriving to class early, writing 'welcome' on the board and surrounding it with each student's name, and greeting each person as they arrive to class and chat informally before class. . If these sort of things are done early on, and if each class has an aspect of sharing (a story telling session, a news section for the week from one member, for example), then it would seem to follow that students would look forward to that class. The class would have a sense of unity, would be seen as enjoyable, and would ultimately motivate the students.