Building Rapport with Students

Building Rapport with Students is critical to your success.

If you have difficulty building rapport with students, your relief teaching day is going to be tough.

Building Rapport With Students

It doesn't matter how much you are prepared. We all have a rough idea of what a building rapport with students means. I am sure it was part of your teacher training somewhere along the line.  I bet building rapport had "respect thrown in somewhere. Possibly also the need to love teaching, creating futures – all the platitudes.

But the reality quickly sets in. 
Building rapport with students when relief teaching is not all beer and skittles. 


I enjoy teaching.  It is the best job I ever had. After 40 years, I still enjoy it. And relief teaching offer specific challenges. 

Make no mistake about it, "Work Is Work".   If I had the choice of spending the day fishing on my boat or in my classroom, I would choose fishing every time.

The reality is one pays the bills and the other doesn’t. But there is no other job I would rather be doing than teaching in schools. As far as jobs go.

But, I don’t feel the calling of a higher power when I enter the classroom. I love my own children, but I don’t have the same feeling towards the children of other parents.  Some I enjoy teaching and some, well, I thank the lucky stars they don’t come home with me.

I don’t want to promote the romanticised version of a positive student teacher rapport.  Let me put it out there. The one thing I am really passionate about is that I can teach, and I want the students to learn.

That is my definition of a Building Rapport with Students.  

The Foundation of Building Rapport is that I want to teach and I want the students to learn.

That's it!

Building Rapport with Students is not about being liked?

Building Rapport with Students

Being Liked is terribly over-rated. You don’t have to like the students you are teaching; which is just as well because some students are just obnoxious.

They don’t have to like you either,  which is also just as well because I'm sure many of them don't (or won't).

But it is essential that students trust that you are am going to make a difference and  value-add to their days; even their lives. If they like you in the process well and good. If they don’t, it’s their loss because I bet you are a pleasant person. 

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

It most certainly is not...

Building Rapport successfully means the students know you are a teacher who wants to teach them.

Who is This Guy?

Building Rapport with Students

A Killer Rapport Building Lesson

If you are looking to building rapport quickly, this is the lesson. I love it. The hardest part when relief teaching is building rapport quickly with your class. You do not have the luxury of time. We all know that rapport building takes time. This activity is perfect when relief teaching because it is all about building rapport quickly - in a lesson. You can't go wrong with that.

Building Rapport with Students
Building Rapport with Students
Building Rapport with Students

Tips to Building Rapport With Students

Practice What You Preach

Kids are far more astute these days. It is incomprehensible to scream at someone for screaming?

How can you blast someone for talking loudly? There seems to be little sense abusing a student for being abusive. Students never fall for the old line, “Do as I say, not what I do.”

Respect is a two-way street and giving students the respect you would expect them to give you sends a powerful message that you respect others. Accepting student responses, answers or questions without judgement goes a long way to demonstrate respect. Some responses may be well off-centre.

You need to accept their response as legitimate even if the class giggles.

Never (EVER) ridicule students for the sake of a laugh. Keep your eyes firmly on the student and respond appropriately. This strategy will send a powerful message to others in your class.

Know the learning needs of your students

If you are new to the class as most relief teachers are, make it your goal to get to understand the learning needs as quickly and as publicly as you can.

Student learning needs must be priority number 1 in all student teacher relationship matters. You want quality learning to drive all your operations. If you know the learning needs of your class, they will trust that you are there to make a difference.

If Betty struggles with punctuation, make sure you scaffold her skills in this area. When walking past her, acknowledge growth in this skill or remediate accordingly.

If Betty struggles with punctuation, make sure you scaffold her skills in this area. When walking past her, acknowledge growth in this skill or remediate accordingly.

Keep a record in your diary of these interactions so the next time you conference, you can talk to her about her learning goals.

Tips to Building Rapport With Students

Work with Students in Small Groups

.. but don’t take over. If you are like me (a bit of a “take-over merchant”) bite your lip in small group work.

I love small group work. If done correctly, it can provide the basis for connecting learning. As a teacher, I have always enjoyed being a participant in the learning circle. Sit and listen.

In all relationships, listeners are highly valued. If you feel a burning desire to provide feedback, have the group acknowledge your right to participate. Ask before you butt in. Follow the group participation rules you established before the activity.

Take an Active Role in Duties

This is a perfect opportunity to show your relief teacher colours outside of the classroom. Move into the playground - even if you don't have to.

Students respond better if they know you care about their school. Students like it when relief teachers participate in their out of classroom activities.

Where possible, take an interest in school sport, the music program or the chess club.

Be involved in the full life of a school. This will feed its way back to admin as well.

Show the very same initiative you expect from your students.

building rapport with students

Tips to Building Rapport With Students

Keep the private and professional roles separate

Keep your relief teaching role on the professional level at all times.

Teachers often find themselves placed between a rock and a hard place. Students may offer opinions gained from home that differ remarkably from social norms. I have learned from experience that if there is a conflict between home and school, students will reject school.

Blaming parents for incomplete homework is fraught with peril. Any criticism of parents by teachers causes a degree of student angst. You may well find your student teacher relationship irreparably damaged should you criticize a family member.

If you ever have the need to report an issue, do it.

You are legal obliged to keep students safe but should not take this responsibility yourself. Be wary of becoming involved in the private circumstances of the family without checking with other professional first.

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