The importance of rapport
Rapport is fundamental to successful lessons. Learning is facilitated when the teacher is able to make the students feel comfortable, relaxed and eager to participate and hindered when students feel on-edge, uncomfortable and embarrassed. Although the students themselves play a large role in determining the classroom atmosphere, there are things the teacher can do to establish a good working relationship with his or her students.
Get to know your students
Learning and using students’ names is a good place to start. However, if you really want to make a connection with your students, you should do as much as possible to find out about their lives outside of the classroom. What are their interests and hobbies? Do they have part-time jobs? Do they have children? What religious holidays do they observe? Find out about their countries and cultures.
You can then use this information in the class to determine topic areas. You can also refer to something you know about individual students in the class and use their knowledge about a particular area as a learning opportunity for other students. Likewise, give the students the chance to learn a little about you, your friends and your family. Students are often more interested in you and each other than they are in fictionalised characters from textbooks.
Another important piece of advice is to listen to your students – not just the grammar they are producing, but the meaning they are trying to convey – and respond in a genuine and interested way. If a student tells you that he doesn’t feel like working because his ‘grandmother at hospital’, don’t jump in with a correction - ‘you mean your grandmother is in the hospital’. Instead, react in a sympathetic manner - ‘I’m sorry to hear that’ - and tell him that he can do some independent work if he prefers.
Put yourself in your students’ shoes
Probably, the most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to put on an act. While some good teachers are also entertainers, you do not have to be an entertainer to be a good teacher!
Try to think about how you would like to be treated if you were in your students’ shoes and start from there. The more experience you gain, the more comfortable you will feel and the easier it will be to determine what will and won’t work in the classroom.