Why Good Rapport With Students Is A Choice You Make Every Day

Smart Classroom Management: Why Good Rapport With Students Is A Choice You Make Every DayThe importance of having good rapport with students can’t be overstated.

Because rapport gives you leverage.

It gives you leadership presence and the influence to change behavior.

It causes students to want to listen, learn, and behave for you—even when they’re hellions with other teachers.

Rapport is also the ingredient that makes teaching one of the most rewarding professions on Earth.

In chapter 3 of Dream Class, I talked about how building rapport is easier than most teachers realize.

It doesn’t take any extra time or effort.

You don’t have to spend your prep hour chatting with students or playing foursquare—although there is nothing wrong with doing so.

You don’t have to have the gift of small talk or a comedian’s wit. You don’t have to be anyone but yourself.

But it does take a choice.

You see, in any leadership position there is a risk for developing negative thoughts about those given into your care, especially if you’re struggling with rebellious or unruly behavior.

And this can be very, very dangerous.

Because when you dislike or resent any one or more of your students, they’ll know it. It’s something you can’t hide. Your negative feelings about them will bubble to the surface one way or another.

They’ll come out in your body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. They’ll come out in the words you use and the vibe you give off.

Have you ever heard the expression, “Your thoughts are showing”?

It’s a truism that becomes heightened in any position of leadership, whether teacher, coach, or parent. Children in particular are ultra sensitive to how adults perceive them.

So, while the key to building influential rapport is nothing more than being consistently pleasant, it’s only possible if you choose to like your students.

And it’s very much a choice.

It isn’t a reaction, a feeling, an intuition, or a hope. It isn’t based on how they look, how studious they are, or whether or not they’re outwardly friendly.

It doesn’t even matter if they’re disrespectful, misbehave behind your back, or try to ruin your best lessons.

You choose to like them anyway.

And here’s the amazing thing: Once you commit yourself to liking every student and seeing only the best in them—no matter who they are or what they’ve done in the past—they become not so unlikable after all.

Because when you choose to like them, consciously and relentlessly, they begin to like you right back—even the most difficult among them.

They begin to behave differently around you, smiling and making eye contact. They begin to trust you and want to please you. They become different people altogether.

It’s a virtuous cycle that only gets stronger with time.

So, practically, on the first day of school and thereafter, make it a point to smile at every student. Talk to them like you would your all-time best and most well-behaved students. And keep at it day after day.

Choose to be happy to see them.

Yes, some days it may take a few quiet moments alone before school to remind yourself that you’re going to doggedly like Anthony or Karla or whoever, despite how they behaved the day before.

But you do it because it has a direct and profound effect on your ability to motivate, inspire, and be the teacher your students need and respond best to.

You do it because it brings endless rays of peace and joy to your classroom. You do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Building influential rapport isn’t difficult.

It’s available to any teacher who guards their heart and mind against negativity, animosity, and resentment. It’s a choice, not a skill.

It’s a choice that can mean the difference between success and failure.

Hope and disillusionment.

Love and hate.

PS – Recently, I was interviewed by Jennifer Gonzalez of the Cult of Pedagogy podcast, which was a lot of fun. Click here to check it out.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving new-article updates in your email box every week.

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21 Responses to Why Good Rapport With Students Is A Choice You Make Every Day

  1. angi August 13, 2016 at 9:16 am #

    Hello Michael! I actually have listened to the episode with Jennifer Gonzalez probably six to seven times in the last few days. That is how I learned about you. Your philosophy is right up my alley! Even though I’ve been in the profession for twenty years, and I have found that there is just still so much to learn. I can’t wait to learn more from you. Have you ever considered doing your own podcast? Are your books on audible? I can’t wait to learn more from you! You’ll definitely hear back from me soon!

    • Michael Linsin August 13, 2016 at 10:54 am #

      Hi Angi,

      Wonderful! I haven’t considered a podcast, but may add a YouTube channel in the near future. The books are not available on audible, but it is something we’re considering.


      • angi galla August 15, 2016 at 7:33 pm #

        Hi Michael,
        Thanks for your response! I wanted to ask your opinion. In the last 20 years, I have used many types of classroom management systems. With a lot of research and information about best practice, I took down my color chart years back. I have used a “similar” system but last year I hit a particularly difficult year (how I wish I would have found you a year ago)! Coming into this year (with a new principal), our admin is requiring us to use a color chart. I have stated my case about research but to no avail. They want everyone to be “consistent across all grade levels.” I do not believe that this type of visual will help my students behave any better. They want to give prizes to students who “stay on green all week.” This goes against my whole philosophy of teaching. Any suggestions or ideas? I would love any help!

        • Michael Linsin August 16, 2016 at 8:06 am #

          Hi Angi,

          This is a topic already on the list of future articles. As for rewards in exchange for good behavior, they effectively strip students of their intrinsic motivation. You can read more in The Happy Teacher Habits and the Incentives & Praise category of the archive.


  2. Linda August 13, 2016 at 11:06 am #

    Hi Michael, I’m a Head Start Pre School teacher and we just started this week. My students are 3-4 years old (mostly 3 to 31/2). This age group is some what new to me considering previous years my students have been 4-5 with only 2 three olds almost 4. My dilemma is HELP. How do you get 3 year olds to sit still for 5-10 minutes when there isn’t structure at home.

    • Michael Linsin August 13, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

      Hi Linda,

      This is too big of a question for the time and space we have here. I would also have questions for you before I could offer reliable advice. There is a cost involved, but we do offer personal coaching. See the link along the menu bar for more info.


  3. Sabrina Scott August 13, 2016 at 11:08 am #

    I believe this with all my heart. You make ’em or break ’em in our classrooms. For 20 years I have been teaching and the fact that you must make a choice to like each and every student every day is the true path to great classroom management, happy students and a successful teacher.

    Every Back to School Night, I share with parents and guardians that I will love every one of their children as if they were my own as well as set high expectations of them. I want these families to trust me that these children, their pride and joy, will be cared for and regarded with love and respect. Just as I do with my own son, I identify the misbehavior as what is not acceptable, not the child himself. It is with this knowledge that a teacher can break through to the student and cultivate an intrinsic want for developing the characteristics of a good classroom citizen and peer. Like they say…you create the weather in your classroom. Is it always stormy in there or do you emit those rays of sunshine that brightens the way to learning?

  4. Megan August 13, 2016 at 3:23 pm #

    One of your bes posts yet. Thank you!

    • Michael Linsin August 13, 2016 at 4:36 pm #

      Thanks Megan! Glad you think so.


  5. Joyce Blaas August 14, 2016 at 9:03 am #

    I have started to pick a child to eat lunch with almost every day. It is the best way I know of to build rapport with my students. I learn a lot about them and they learn more about me.

  6. traci August 14, 2016 at 10:11 am #

    I, too, just listened to your interview with JGo! So great and inspiring. I think you should have a podcast too! I was surprised you didn’t as I was trying to find you on iTunes!! Please turn your books into audible books! I have a two hour commute and I don’t have a lot of time to read in my spare time but I promise I will buy them if you turn them into audio! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! Like what was already said, I cannot wait to learn from you! I have also been in education over 20 years and I am still learning ALL.THE.TIME!

    • Michael Linsin August 14, 2016 at 10:32 am #

      Thanks Traci! I will definitely consider your suggestions.


  7. Chris Mauger August 15, 2016 at 7:57 am #

    I’m definitely linking to this in our staff bulletin this week. Thanks, Michael. This can (and should) be a focus for administrators also, not just with students but also with “challenging” staff members. Rapport and positive relationships are essential for building a great school culture, and it starts at the one-to-one level.

    • Michael Linsin August 15, 2016 at 8:13 am #

      Thanks Chris!


  8. Gertrude August 16, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

    Hello Michael, I hv been an assistant teacher for 2 years, now I have been given an opportunity to become a teacher in middle school. Precisely grade 7 and 8 as a Math teacher. How do I manage students at that age. Expecting your reply. Thank you.

    • Michael Linsin August 16, 2016 at 3:02 pm #

      Hi Gertrude,

      The question you ask is what this website is about. When you get a chance, please check out our archive, where you can find nearly any and every classroom management topic imaginable. You may also want to check out one of our books along the sidebar.


  9. Suzy August 16, 2016 at 5:42 pm #

    Hi Michael. Love your books and articles and have implemented many of your strategies in my classroom with great results! I enjoyed this article about building rapport with students. I do build a good rapport with my kindergarten students. It’s our 8th grade buddies that I am having a hard time building a rapport with. It’s not the 8th grade buddies, but the lack of classroom management that takes place in the middle school. I get frustrated because the 8th graders don’t always model the best behavior in front of my students. How do you recommend I handle this?

    • Michael Linsin August 16, 2016 at 7:41 pm #

      Hi Suzy,

      I’m so glad the books and blog have been helpful. Great to hear! This is a big question I wish I had the time and space to cover here. I’m not sure how I can translate it into a single article, but I’ll keep it in mind. In the meantime, if you’re interested, we do offer personal coaching.


  10. Abed Ahmed August 26, 2016 at 11:24 am #

    Hello Michael,

    I previously commented on one of your posts but forgot what post it was and I can’t check if you have replied.

    I wanted to ask, do you have an example of a behaviour management plan poster or display I can follow and put on my wall for my pupils to follow?

    • Michael Linsin August 26, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

      Hi Abed,

      No, you must create your own.