Rapport is one of those things in life that may be difficult to define, but you know it when you feel it. Here is how Answers.com defines the term:
Rapport: Relationship or connection, especially one of mutual trust or emotional
In the distant past, good teachers believed they should maintain some distance from their students to preserve the expert to novice relationship. While some took this to mean a stern and scholarly demeanour, others saw no harm with a little display of humanity now and then.
Today we know building rapport is more than simply a nice thing to do. It enhances learning. Research on how the brain learns suggests the brain first connects on an emotional level; hence the importance of establishing an emotional connection with students. This does not mean teachers have to be “mates” to their students.
Here are six practical things any teacher can do to build rapport with students:
First, a little humour goes a long way. Amusing anecdotes or personal stories create a relaxed and calming atmosphere.
Being available to your students tells them you are interested in them and their success. Show up early for class and stay late to allow time for students to converse with you. Publish your office hours and make sure you honour them. In today’s world, it is easy to be available online in a variety of ways.
Talk with the students, not “at” the students at appropriate points during presentations. Class discussions should not be limited to those activities where the class breaks up into formal groups.
Industry trainers have long used table name cards to be able to call on students by name. While name cards are not always possible in a traditional class setting, teachers should still invest the effort to learn the students’ names. What’s more, take the time to learn a little about your students’ interests outside the classroom. This does not mean you need to listen to whatever music they prefer, only that you know what they like and talk with them about it from time to time.
Sharing your own personal experiences and stories can have a dramatic effect. If you are teaching college juniors or seniors how to behave in an employment interview, tell them the tale of your first experiences.
Make every effort to infuse your presentations with real-world examples. Some content that appears dry and boring can be invigorated by relating the content to daily life or your own experience, or both. Translate “jargon” laden content into plain English. Do not assume your students understand all acronyms or industry jargon in your presentations.
If you review these ideas, you can see they can be implemented without trying to become “friends” with your students. Authenticity is key here and students are very good at spotting contrived attempts at building rapport. Whatever you do, be real and be consistent.