The 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.