How to Develop Rapport with Students

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  • 0:00 Building Rapport
  • 1:05 Learning Profiles
  • 2:22 Knowing Your Students
  • 2:56 No One Size Fits All
  • 3:44 Rapport With…
  • 6:35 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Sharon Linde
Developing positive relationships with students is an important part of the job for educators. This lesson describes ways to do this and shows how to apply these methods to your everyday teaching.

Building Rapport

Mr. Davis is a first-year teacher struggling with classroom management. In his years as a student, he felt more connected to some teachers than others and he wanted to make sure he was one of 'those' teachers, the one students liked and felt comfortable with. He started off the year being friendly with students, allowing misbehavior to slide so he didn't come off as a bad guy. Now, as he tries to regain footing in his classroom, his students seem further away than ever. Where did he go wrong?

Connecting with students and building a positive rapport, or close, understanding relationship, is important to student success. Rapport is essential for effective teachers. Not only is it necessary for classroom management, as we see with Mr. Davis, but the bonds teachers form with students aid academics as well. Students who have trusting relationships with teachers are less afraid to fail and more willing to take chances, and they strive to achieve. How can Mr. Davis make this happen? Let's take a look.

Learning Profiles

Mr. Davis's instincts in his first days of teaching were right on. He tried to get to know his students. He asked what their favorite sports and video games were and shared his own experiences. What he didn't do, though, was get to know and understand his students as learners. This critical first step in developing rapport means not learning about each student's likes and dislikes, but finding out each student's unique learner profile, or how they understand and make sense of material in school.

Students already have friends who are interested in the same things they are. Teachers fill another different yet important role: the person who helps them succeed in school. Positive interactions with teachers come from showing care and interest in who they are as students by:

  • Supporting each student at their current level
  • Setting limits on behavior
  • Establishing meaningful relationships with families
  • Allowing students chances for self-definition, or figuring out their place in school and life

Mr. Davis can begin by observing his students closely and understanding how they learn, then use this information when teaching. If Sean struggles with math, Mr. Davis can offer help in a way that makes Sean feel supported, helping to create a bond.

Knowing Your Students

Mr. Davis can also build strong rapport with his students by looking at each student as a whole person. Sean might struggle with math, but he is an excellent writer who spends much of his time drawing and illustrating comic books. If Mr. Davis understands this, he can build a relationship with Sean based on knowing him wholly.

Mr. Davis needs to let his students know that he cares about who they are as people. He can show them this by attending out-of-school events, like plays or sporting games, being a caring role model, and being clear and consistent in his methods of teaching and discipline.

No One Size Fits All

Like we said earlier, each student in Mr. Davis's classroom is a unique learner. When approaching his teaching, Mr. Davis needs to remember that he'll need to use different strategies to get to know and build rapport with students. Sean might respond well when Mr. Davis talks to him about his art, but Latisha is more reserved and distrustful. Using this same approach might be a turn-off for her and push her away instead of strengthening a bond.

When building rapport with his students, Mr. Davis needs to remember each student and offer them academic and behavioral support that helps them grow as students. By knowing that Latisha is wary, Mr. Davis can wade slowly into a relationship with her, smiling often, offering consistent praise, and building trust in his ability to be fair and consistent.

Rapport With Challenging Students

Not all students will respond to Mr. Davis's offers of a strong, caring relationship. These students might have emotional difficulties, a challenging past, or other reasons for not responding to a teacher's care. When faced with students who consistently struggle with adjusting to the norms of a classroom, teachers can keep some things in mind to help them establish rapport.

First, they can show empathy. When teachers build empathy for their students, or try to see things from the student's perspective, it can allow them to remain more calm and offer help more readily. Though many of these strategies seem counter-intuitive, they're all necessary for building rapport with students. Mr. Davis needs to not just understand that some of his students lead a rough life, but actually attempt to empathize with them. This way, he will be able to act and react with this knowledge in mind.

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