How to Build Rapport with Students

Many factors impact a young person’s ability to learn.  A dysfunctional home, a defiant attitude, boring subject matter, etc., can cause a student to give up on school or graduate with a low grade point average, thus limiting a student’s options for achieving an advanced education.  This is why effective communication and trust between teacher and student is so important.    

To establish an open line of communication, a teacher must first develop a rapport with the child.  To do this, he or she must be able to relate to the children of the present generation.  The only way to relate to somebody else is to feel empathy for the other person’s situation and to experience the culture of the person you are trying to relate to. 

The best way to begin developing a mutual rapport is through a student’s musical taste.  Music defines a generation; hence, getting to know a student’s interests in music will give a teacher a better clue into a student’s personality.  This will also soften a student somewhat, allowing him or her to realize the educator is similar in some way.  If, as a teacher, you are unfamiliar with the latest in songs, you need to do some research into pop culture—either through magazines, music channels or teachings from others who are familiar.  Engage in dialogue about the latest tunes and news about various popular artists.

Also, knowing a person’s background will help steer conversations because a teacher can discuss ways to help students cope with balancing studies and home life.  If a student is not from a good neighborhood, it will be hard for a teacher to relate if he or she has not experienced that type of life first-hand.  Perhaps a visit to the community will illuminate any problems and possible solutions.  Plus, visiting a student’s environment will show a student that an educator truly cares.

Avoid condescension.  Make sure your students know that you hold no higher place as a person simply because you are a teacher.  You don’t know everything, and students loathe a teacher who thinks otherwise.  Of course, you will know more about the subject matter you are teaching, and you deserve respect. But always remember that your students deserve respect, too.  When correcting a student, do not ask stupid, rhetorical questions.  For example, if a student is late for class, do not ask, “Do you know what being tardy means?”  Ask why he or she was late, and handle the situation accordingly.  Do not yell or berate a child.  And most of all, never discipline a student in front of other students.

The key to forging a good relationship with a child is to be genuine.  Learn about a student’s world.  Engage in what they feel.  If you have no idea how, ask others who have successfully accomplished this task.  Read books by respected teachers and learn their pointers.  You have to sincerely want to empathize. 

Remember, if you feel like you can put on a show and fake like you know, then you don’t need to be teaching.