This is a question first time teachers worry about constantly. And as we more veteran teachers move on from year to year, this worry tends to fall off of what’s important to us. As we teachers get further into our career, we teach what we teach and it’s up to the students to actually do the learning. We can become jaded.
Building rapport with our students should be our #1 goal, whether we are new to the teaching arena or we’ve been teaching for thirty-five years. In this age of teaching for the standardized test and everything become online all of a sudden, it has gotten more and more difficult to build rapport. Just because it’s become difficult does not mean we should forget about it.
Think back to your own time as a student. Which classes did you do the best in? Was it the classes with a teacher who never even learned your name? I think I can confidently say it was not. What about the classes where your teachers really got to know you and let you in on a little bit of their lives as well? I couldn’t stand math, however, I took pre-Calculus my junior year of high school and – because I absolutely loved Mrs. Dodson – I took Calculus my senior year and passed it with a high A!
Building rapport isn’t some obscure, 10-step thing you have to do. When is the last time you spent five or fifteen minutes at the beginning of the day asking your students an open-ended question like “what did you do over the weekend?” or “if you could eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?”?
Yes, these activities will take some of your class time up. Isn’t it worth it though if you build a little rapport and it causes your students to feel cared about and heard? When your students feel cared about and heard, they want to invest themselves more in your class time!
Do you ever take the time to meet one-on-one with students? Or even in small groups? What if once a week you sacrificed your ‘alone time’ during lunch to have several of your students join you in your classroom so you can connect with them outside of ‘class’ time?
Building rapport doesn’t really take a whole lot of effort. It just takes your willingness. It’s okay to laugh and joke around with your students some. Do something unexpected and sporadic once in a while! Most kids – even if they pretend they’re too mature for it – love it when we do something crazy, foolish, and out of the blue!
I don’t have a billion and one ideas for how you can be out of the ordinary with your students. But I’m sure you all have ideas. Share them in the comments! We are a community and it’s time to start acting like it!
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