There is a common misconception that you must be “cool” in order to build rapport.
The idea being that unless you’re able to interact with students on their level, unless you can speak their pop/youth culture language and tap into their wider influences, your influence will be limited.
They’ll dismiss you and disregard what you say.
But it isn’t true.
Although building rapport is critically important for effective classroom management, any teacher behavior that unnaturally seeks to mirror age-group norms—through language, mannerisms, and attitudes—will backfire.
What can be confusing, though, and the reason so many teachers latch clumsily to this strategy, is that the problems it creates don’t develop right away.
In fact, you may feel as if you’re on the fast track to a deep and powerful relationship. Your students may indeed crowd around you after the first day of school. They may feel immediately at ease in your presence. They may be thrilled that someone so cool could actually be their teacher.
That is, until the bottom falls out and misbehavior skyrockets.
You see, while it’s true that students may initially be drawn to such a teacher, eventually—and often quickly—they’ll lose respect.
So instead of looking up to you as a leader they admire, they’ll look over at you as a friend who disappoints them. They’ll react with shock and outrage if you dare hold them accountable. They’ll become silly and unruly and brazenly disrespectful.
They’ll stop taking you seriously.
Influential rapport isn’t born of an ability to tap into your students’ generational mores. It doesn’t develop through your adept use of modern slang, knowledge of popular music, or comfort saying “Hashtag, remember to get your homework done.”
You don’t have to have a certain look, dress a certain way, or in any way change who you are.
Building trusting rapport is a byproduct of your consistent, day-after-day pleasantness and willingness to see the best in your students. It’s your God-given personality, your realness, your uniqueness, and your humor that will draw students irresistibly into your circle of influence.
It’s your leadership, your forthrightness, and your follow-through that will earn the respect of even the most jaded students. It’s the staggering combination of your gentle kindness and rock-solid adherence to clearly defined boundaries that offer the keys to the kingdom.
Young or experienced, new teacher or veteran, it matters not one bit. Anyone, anywhere, in any teaching situation can build the influential rapport needed to create the peaceful classroom they desire.
You can do this.
Just the way you are.
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