How to Build Rapport with Students

Building Rapport with studentsBuilding rapport with students is a misunderstood concept. I'm sure you know that a positive rapport with students makes a significant difference to behaviour management. What does it really mean in the classroom?

What it Means to Build Rapport with Students.

Let me define what building rapport with students means so we are on the same page.

A rapport is a harmonious relationship based on understanding others' feelings or ideas and where communication is productive.

We hear all the time that creating connections with your students, including the most difficult students, has a profound impact on how they respond to you. That certainly is true.

Some believe that creating connections is about being liked, knowing students personally and sharing time together.

It most certainly is not.

In fact, this could not be further from the truth.

Knowing students and being liked on a personal level is fraught with danger. You only need to read the newspapers to know what I mean.

The fact is there is a significant degree of discomfort for both the student and the teacher when the relationship moves past the classroom level. Knowing students on a personal level does little or nothing, to build rapport and trust in the classroom.

This type of social interaction creates a climate of suspicion and will have no positive impact on the learning environment of the classroom.

Knowing students on a personal level does little or nothing, to build rapport and trust in the classroom.

Teachers build rapport with students to influence their attitude to learning. What they think of you as a person is immaterial. What they think of you as an educator is paramount.

The only relationship you need with students is their confidence that your teaching is authentic.

The students need to know that you are going to value-add to their day.

Students will respond to you positively as a teacher if they are confident that you have their learning as your most important goal. They are likely to misbehave where they feel they will get no value out of any interaction with you as a teacher.

In reality, there will be kids in your class you don't like. It is extremely difficult to like the persistent offenders whose misbehaviour continually interrupts the learning environment you want to establish. Don't feel guilty not liking all students. You don't have to.

Building Rapport with Students Influences Learning

There is nothing in your contract that says you have to like them all. If this were the case, schools wouldn't be able to staff schools.

Not liking students is an evasive situation for some teachers who have the "To Sir With Love" mentality. They believe they are failing as teachers if they are not attuned to the romanticised version of teaching.

What students think of you as a person is immaterial. What they think of you as an educator is paramount.

I'm going to burst some bubbles here, but there were (and still are) many kids I didn't like much. I thank the lucky stars I'm not their parent. You are not paid to like ALL kids.

But you must care about their learning and always hold the unwavering belief that you can valued add to their day.

The students must be better off after every lesson, every day and every year that they are in your classroom.

What are the key elements that will build effective relationships with your students so that they will behave for you in class?

Know Students' Learning Needs


Familiarity in the classroom doesn't enhance teacher - students relationships. You have to influence their learning.

It matters little if you know their favourite TV show or can talk the modern lingo.

It matters a lot if you have a total understanding of their learning needs.

Knowing that a student can't factor composite numbers, or needs help writing complex sentences or really enjoys reading science fiction has more influence on teacher-student relationships than knowing the top 10 pop songs.


Build Trust


Building rapport with students starts with trust.

If your students believe that you are driving their learning agenda, you will have a significant impact on their classroom behaviour. They will soon learn that if they behave, they will reap rewards of better learning opportunities.

Even kids for whom learning is difficult will behave if there is something in it for them.

After all, building rapport with students has a positive impact on their behaviour within the classroom. The only reason you want students to behave is to create the best learning environment.

That only works if you build a rapport built on trust.


Being a friend to students based on likeability brings with it a complicated set of social protocols.

Consider how different your conversations with personal friends are when compared to the conversations your students. They should be different because your students are not your friends.

Having a rapport with students can be professionally rewarding. It is important that enjoying students in your class is about influencing their behaviour so that learning can be productive.

Don't make your classroom humourless.

But don’t try to be friends when building rapport with students.