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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