Teaching is the art of imparting knowledge and making students learn by experience. There are so many teachers who understand this, and yet, so many who do not. For example, there are teachers whose speeches in class are constantly revolving around themselves; there are also those who do not ask their students questions – they just go on and on, talking and boring the class. Of course your students will lose interest and attention if you are one of them! It is important to implement techniques on how to build a good teacher-student rapport.
Building this special rapport gives your students confidence to ask questions, adds value to your class, and determines everybody to stay persuasive in their work. Most importantly, it gives your students the courage to ‘confront’ you, and expose their opinions. And isn’t this exactly what we are preparing them for? They have to go out in the world and reveal their true beliefs with boldness. That is what proves that you are a good teacher.
Tip #1: The sandwich method
I call this technique ‘sandwich method’ because there are three steps to it. When giving students feedback, we have to be gentle, but also harsh, if we want them to stop making the same mistakes again. So what is the best way to put it? The sandwich method of constructive criticism. You start with a very positive remark, go on to the harsh comment, and end with a positive remark as well. The pieces of bread represent the good remarks, while the ham or cheese (if vegetarian) represents the critique.
For instance, let’s imagine one of my students makes the same writing mistake over and over again. He writes ‘their’ instead of ‘there’. When I give him feedback, I will start with something like this: ‘You did great writing this whole interesting paper by yourself, but you should never write “their” instead of “there” again, OK? I am so proud to have such a smart student in my class!’
Tip #2: Be yourself
Not all of us are made for teaching. There are some people who like dancing, others who enjoy maths, and some who are inspired by philosophy. If you think teaching is not fit for you, you can always switch careers. There is no point in sticking to what you don’t like. And while in other job fields your frustration would probably be unnoticeable for the people around you, teaching is not part of that field. Students can see if you don’t like teaching. You know why? Because you are constantly trying to be somebody else.
The key to success teaching is staying true to who you are and living by your values. The best teacher does not fake smiles, or gets tired of teaching. The best teacher enjoys interacting with her students, and loves strong connections, which she develops constantly. The best teacher is a person who is not afraid of putting herself in an uncomfortable situation. She is so shameless and so proud of her willingness to share everything with her students that she won’t stop being herself.
Tip #3: Find their interests
If you are interested in connecting with students, you should probably get to know them better. Create activities that help you understand their hobbies and passions, and use them to bring pupils closer to you. For instance, take them out for a film, and talk about it after. Analyse what they liked and what they didn’t, and listen to their opinions on the action. What did they think about the characters? To whom do they resemble the most and why? Henry Evanoff, freelance writer at EssayGeeks, and part-time teacher, shares his experience with us: ‘After my students shared their negative thoughts on WWII with me, I took them to a great war-related film. I used our next meeting to talk about their views, and to see if they changed. They were so many things I didn’t expect them to see, and yet, they did. They changed their perspectives on the war, and they understood so much more after leaving the cinema. Finding out their interests was definitely worthy.’
Tip #4: Talk about books
Film debating is not always possible. Therefore, talking about books and plots and characters is still interesting. This way, you not only get them to read, but also develop their imagination. Assign a certain books for a certain class (make sure you give them a reasonable, ahead of time notice). The day the assignment is due, arrange the classroom in such way that they all sit in a circle and see each other’s faces. This creates openness and strengthens confidence.
Start talking about the book, and make them debate on the subject. Importantly, don’t forget that they have to stay respectful to one another. Never let them interrupt their classmates. Set certain rules, and write them down if you have to.
Tip #5: Attend extracurricular events
Sometimes, our students get so attached that they invite us to different activities outside of class. This is a big step towards a great student-teacher rapport. If you have the necessary time, don’t hesitate to go. It’s not ‘weird’, ‘odd’, or ‘unusual’. These things happen all the time.
One time, one of my dearest students invited me to their birthday party. She was turning 14, so I thought: what would I do there? But regardless of that, I went. I had a blast! I had so much fun I cannot even describe it to you. I just went there and felt 14 again. It is a great experience, so be courageous and go.
Tip #6: Design a comfortable classroom
In order to have an open environment, you will need bright, warm colours on your walls, and possibly some nice drawings. Ask the school board for permission, and then start working on your classroom. You can add ‘trademarks’ of your students on the wall, or make them draw something every day until there is no more space to write on.
What I like to do is keep litres of paint in the classroom, and whenever somebody answers a question correctly, he or she can stick their hands in the paint and then stick it to the wall. Their red/yellow/blue/green palms on the wall means they have contributed to class. And I am telling you, that proud moment of glory will serve them as an incentive to contribute again. Usually, pupils are much more enthusiastic about this task than they are about writing my PowerPoint presentation.
Tip #7: Respect
An important form of respect in the classroom could be saying ‘hi’ or ‘bye’ every time someone leaves the class. If it’s you who is leaving first, you have to say ‘goodbye’ first. If it’s them, they have to. It makes students feel like their presence is essential in class. This detail, although apparently small, will establish a better connection with your dear students.
Tip #8: Everyday life lessons
Having intelligent discussions and teaching them something new academically is great. But do not forget about life. Teaching your students life lessons through different activities is extremely valuable. It develops their emotional intelligence, which is extremely important to have, especially nowadays. You can set up morning meetings for people to share their feelings on different matters. At the end of each day, you can make them highlight the most important actions they have taken. Stay sincere and make them be honest with their feelings as well.
Tip #9: Be playful
Children are playful, so if we want them to learn something, we have to play their games. I am not saying play hide and seek in the playground – I am talking about asking random facts or telling funny stories to them. Even making up a funny game can be a good idea.
Imagination is essential when we talk with children. Make them tell you the most interesting hero stories they know, and ask them if there is anything they would change about those stories. If the answer is yes, ask them to draw that change for you; or, if older, make them write a composition about it. If they make mistakes when writing, never punish them. Use the sandwich method, and offer them constructive criticism. Be playful like a child in the classroom, while of course, keeping the duties of a teacher.
Tip #10: You can’t read minds
When you don’t understand a certain student’s behaviour, ask – never assume. This is a very common mistake teachers make, and it is wrong. Assuming your students ‘slam their books on their desks because they are angry at you’, or ‘didn’t do their homework because they played video games’ is very harmful for your relationship with them.
Always ask them why they react a certain way, and keep an open mind to understand their problems. If they have serious issues (maybe family-related), make sure you take action.
Tip #11: Families
Families play a big role in how students react at school. So include them in your teaching strategy. Throw a barbecue party at your house and invite all of your students. Ask them to bring their families, so you can meet them. This is a great way to bond with the people ‘behind the curtains’ and understand where certain behaviours in your students come from.
Creating a good student-teacher rapport is essential in spreading your knowledge. In order to be a teacher, it is not enough to master your subject. You have to master your emotions, and expose yourself in front of your students. You have to keep an open mind, and never be afraid of losing. Your students’ confidence in themselves and in yourself comes from acceptance, broad-mindedness, and interest. These feelings might be one-sided at first, but as time goes by, I am sure your students will start giving.
Chris Richardson is a journalist, editor, and a blogger. He loves to write, learn new things, and meet new outgoing people.