How To Build Effortless Rapport

Because it’s one of the most effective and most powerful ways to influence behavior, having a natural, trusting rapport with your students is crucial.

Rapport provides the good vibrations between you and your class that makes your classroom management plan matter. It gives your plan its teeth, infusing it with meaning and muscle and dissuading students from ever wanting to disappoint you by breaking its contract.

The simple truth is that the better rapport you have with your students, the easier classroom management becomes.

The key question, of course, is how? How does one go about building rapport? If you seek conventional wisdom, the advice you’ll hear will center on spending extra time with students, doing with them the things they like to do.

Playing catch at recess, eating lunch with small groups, joining in a PE game . . . these activities can indeed strengthen your ties.

But building genuine, behavior-influencing rapport, the kind that fills your students with a deep desire to fulfill your vision of a dream classroom, is less about what you do proactively and more about what you don’t do.

You see, rapport comes effortlessly to those who manage their classroom without causing friction with students. To put another way, teachers who refrain from yelling, scolding, sarcasm, and the like are able to build rapport simply by virtue of their pleasantness.

Rapport is nothing more than the positive feelings students have about you. When they like you and trust you, they’ll be drawn to you and want to get to know you better. In this way, it isn’t something you have to work at.

It develops organically, from the first day of school onward, getting stronger as the year progresses. And it can happen quickly. If you’re openly friendly and welcoming, your students will seek you out, ask about you, and want to be around you.

They’ll look you in the eye and smile and seek a connection, even on the first day.

It makes your initial interacting and conversing with students easy and natural, and has a profound affect on their buying in to your program. Your only job, then, is to nurture it with your good humor, pleasant demeanor, and steady, consistent behavior.

It’s not uncommon for teachers to develop a strong rapport within the first few days of school, but then watch as it all goes terribly wrong. Given the nature of relationships, rapport can be lost quickly amidst the first batch of behavior challenges.

Like clockwork, students will begin testing the behavioral waters early in the school year to see if you really do mean what you say. They’ll call out in class. They’ll side-talk during lessons. They’ll stop following routines as modeled.

And it is in these moments, during these challenges, when rapport is won or lost. It is in these moments when once happy and agreeable students discover that their teacher isn’t who they thought he (or she) was.

They experience the lectures, the how-dare-you scoldings, and the emotional responses to misbehavior. They notice the inconsistency, the rules left unenforced, the broken promises dismissed without a glance.

They grow tired of the interruptions and distractions and the smothering efforts to keep a lid on the classroom.

And hereafter, with the once-bright rays of rapport all but faded, both parties begin the slow, guarded limp onward, day after day, wary of each other but just getting through it. It’s a sad solo saxophone played over and over again in countless classrooms.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It never has to be this way.

With just one flip of a switch, one adjustment in philosophy, one ironclad commitment to never cause friction, powerful rapport is yours for the taking. It’s a low-hanging fruit ripe and available to any teacher.

For it doesn’t take comedic wit. It doesn’t take a talk-show personality. And it doesn’t take time and effort trying to force the issue.

No, rapport is nothing more than a willingness to enjoy your students combined with a near-obsessive reliance on your classroom management plan.

It’s a knight’s watch, standing sentry, day after day, protecting their right to learn and relish school without interference or a fractured and fearful relationship with their teacher.

It’s the freedom to love your students, unencumbered.

So they can love you right back.

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14 Responses to How To Build Effortless Rapport

  1. Sharon June 17, 2013 at 4:31 am #

    Thanks for another great article. It is a good one to reflect on as I end this school year and start thinking about preparation for the year to come.

    • Michael Linsin June 17, 2013 at 6:55 am #

      You’re welcome, Sharon!

      Michael

  2. Greg June 19, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    I really enjoy this article as I do each one! (I actually keep a folder on my computer with your articles so I can refer back to them). This one is very well written and accurate.This article did hit a little close to home for me at and I felt myself cringe a bit when you wrote about the the rapport deteriorating slowly like a sad solo being played on a saxophone! In your new book, are the articles the same exact ones that are posted on this site or is there a difference? Thanks!

    • Michael Linsin June 19, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

      Hi Greg,

      The articles in the new book (except for one) were previously published on this website. However, they’ve been chosen, ordered, edited, and in some cases rewritten so you’d have everything you need to effectively manage any classroom.

      :)Michael

  3. Greg June 23, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

    Thanks, Michael! I look forward to purchasing the book soon or on my kindle soon,

    • Michael Linsin June 24, 2013 at 6:20 am #

      Sounds good, Greg! I think you’ll like it.

      Michael

  4. pari July 6, 2014 at 12:48 am #

    Hi. how can I write a book for my students? can you help me?

    • Michael Linsin July 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

      Hi Pari,

      I’m not sure what you mean. Can you please email with more details?

      Michael

  5. Julia July 17, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

    Hi Michael,

    I have struggled with classroom management for the five years I’ve been a teacher, but last year was a complete disaster. My rapport with students started off wonderfully, but deteriorated so entirely that I was counting the days until school was over. Reading your site has helped me reflect on what went so utterly wrong. You see…I am a softie. I have trouble enforcing rules because I think it will cause friction between the student and me. I never considered that it was my lack of enforcement for small infractions at the start of the year that eventually led to the deterioration of my classroom community. I have always been a very easy-going teacher, which I used to think was something positive that students would enjoy, but now I realize I need to somehow find it in myself to become an authority figure. I will be teaching fifth grade this year. I will stop hoping for a better class and hang this article next to my alarm clock instead so I’ll see it every morning. Wish me luck. 🙂

    • Michael Linsin July 18, 2014 at 6:13 am #

      Good luck, Julia! The good news is that your easygoing nature, when combined with your new-found consistency, will help you create leverage and likability naturally.

      Michael

  6. Eliz February 8, 2015 at 11:52 pm #

    Hi Michael, like Julia I’m a softie, any advice on how “start-over” with my students? I’ve been teaching them for a month or so, and I would like to encourage a better classroom environment,

    Regards!

  7. Eleanor August 26, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

    I have just finished my first week of school and have been following your ideas as closely as I can. My rules are similar to yours (within the restraints of teaching as a team of 7 6th grade teachers) and my style is I hope similar to what you suggest. So far so good. I am determined not to have the honeymoon period end. I do have a question though – many teachers put up a board about themselves – photos of their kids and their hobbies – I wonder if that is a good idea or not. I am not their friend, and I don’t want to become too familiar with them as they are students and I am a role model. However, I like the idea of a small amount of my personality and character to come through. Wondered what people think?

    • Michael Linsin August 26, 2016 at 3:49 pm #

      Hi Eleanor,

      I think it’s nice, though unlikely to have any effect on behavior one way or the other.

      Michael

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