Why Teachers Should Build Rapport with Students

Rapport is one of those things in life that may be difficult to define, but you know it when
you feel it. Here is how Answers.com defines the term:

Rapport: Relationship or connection, especially one of mutual trust or emotional

In the distant past, good teachers believed they should maintain some distance from their
students to preserve the expert to novice relationship. While some took this to mean a
stern and scholarly demeanor, others saw no harm with a little display of humanity now
and then.

Today we know building rapport is more than simply a nice thing to do. It enhances
learning. Research on how the brain learns suggests the brain first connects on an
emotional level; hence the importance of establishing an emotional connection with
students. This does not mean teachers have to be “mates” to their students. Here are six
practical things any teacher can do to build rapport with students:

1. Laugh a little
2. Being there
3. Talk with them
4. Know who they are
5. Share yourself
6. Translate your content

First, a little humor goes a long way. Amusing anecdotes or personal stories create a
relaxed and calming atmosphere.

Second, being available to your students tells them you are interested in them and their
success. Show up early for class and stay late to allow time for students to converse with
you. Post office hours and make sure you honor them. In today’s world, it is easy to be
available online in a variety of ways.

Third, talk with the students, not “at” the students at appropriate points during
presentations. Class discussions should not be limited to those activities where the class
breaks up into formal groups.

Fourth, industry trainers have long used table name cards to be able to call on students
by name. While name cards are not always possible in a traditional class setting, teachers
should still invest the effort to learn the students’ names. What’s more, take the time to
learn a little about your students’ interests outside the classroom. This does not mean you
need to listen to whatever music they prefer, only that you know what they like and talk
with them about it from time to time.

Fifth, sharing your own personal experiences and stories can have a dramatic effect. If
you are teaching college juniors or seniors how to behave in an employment interview,
tell them the tale of your first experiences.

Sixth, make every effort to infuse your presentations with real-world examples. Some
content that appears dry and boring can be invigorated by relating the content to daily life
or your own experience, or both. Translate “jargon” laden content into plain English. Do
not assume your students understand all acronyms in your presentations.

If you review these ideas, you can see they can be implemented without trying to
become “friends” with your students. Authenticity is key here and students are very
good at spotting contrived attempts at building rapport. Whatever you do, be real and be