An interesting/useful document here: BuildRapport . It’s American but relevant to anyone and has some links to some interesting back up studies.
Something that keeps coming up for me in observations is the relationship I have with the students. Even my mentor who knows and sees every time I’m in class that I have a good relationship with the students comments on it quite a lot in my observation feedback, as if it’s something new for him to see.
The experienced teachers, watching with a critical eye all comment on how important a good rapport is to procure both good behaviour in the classroom and to engage students in learning as well as to assess students’ learning.
In my Yr2 group, as anyone who’s followed my journey would know, I got off to a slow start with lots of hours spent observing and helping with assignments and not much time teaching, or what I would formerly have categorised as teaching, as in delivery of something new. This frustrated me but I was able to reflect and consider that it had in some ways been a blessing as it had enabled me to get to know each student really well and that assisted me then when I did start to deliver more teaching. It definitely without a doubt did. I didn’t need my mentors and tutors to tell me that, I could tell it did.
I didn’t feel that I was doing anything outstanding though by having a good rapport with the students but evidently I was, not everyone can or does do it and for that reason it’s noted as being such on my feedback from observations. It makes me happy even though I thought it was just what a teacher did. I guess I knew without being told that it was an integral element of good teaching and if I think about it, it probably came subconsciously from recollections of enjoying classes of teachers I got along with more throughout my education than the classes and subjects of those I didn’t have such a good relationship with or who I felt were biased towards others in the class or who I felt hadn’t even noticed me. Add to this the comments of my own children over the years who, when I think about it now, have always commented on enjoying the lessons they have had with teachers they ‘like’ (read get on well with) and there’s little wonder this was in the back of my mind key to being a successful teacher – notice I say successful and not good. What is good anyway?
So I thought I’d kind of crept in through the backdoor with that one on my observations. I felt as if by default, because of the lack of opportunity for teaching I had had no choice but to forge those relationships in 1:1 situations with students. I felt that I’d just maximised an opportunity and it was an opportunity I wouldn’t always get. In fact in reflection on feedback I’ve commented that I almost certainly will never get such an opportunity to bond with a class and the individuals within it to that extent and I wondered if I might be hindered or shocked even when I had to teach a class of individuals I didn’t know and hadn’t built any rapport with and who I couldn’t have the luxury of a few weeks of one to one time with.
I wondered in short if my outstanding relationships with the students and the subsequent ease with which they then became teachable was a bit of a one off. I wondered how I’d fare if I was thrown in at the deep end.
I taught an AAT class, I didn’t know them, that was different. They were all adult learners, closer to my age and the whole feel of the room was different, they understood I was a stand in for their usual teacher, they were responsive and receptive, well behaved and grateful for my time. I couldn’t use that as a test of my ability to teach a classroom full of complete strangers.
I taught the AAT class again and this time I was testing out Socrative so I did a quick exit survey, finding out what they thought of the lesson and what they thought of the methods and of the teaching. It was anonymous, it was kind of for research purposes, it was not coming back to haunt them, they were ending the course the next week so I’m guessing they were genuine in their responses and they all commented on the good relationship with the teacher. I was a bit shocked but then reflected and thought, I had actually had a laugh with them, I’d been milling around that room, working it to make sure they all understood the exercise we were doing, I’d remembered some names, we’d had an off topic chat about employment opportunities. I guess yeah, we had the beginnings of a good relationship and instead of being surprised I should be proud of my achievement. I’d done that, as a teacher, I’d managed to impress upon the group the essence of myself being a teacher who could not be serious all of the time, who was flexible, approachable, helpful and interested in them. We don’t often pat ourselves on the back for things but in this instance I was going to indulge myself.
Then I was told I was taking the Year 1 class. It was agreed that I’d observe for a couple of weeks but my tutor and mentor agreed it would be a good move to drop me in at the deep end and so that is what happened. My first session with them was a delivery session, we didn’t know each other and everything started in terms of relationship building from zero.
I decided to do nothing out of the ordinary, to just be myself, have a light session, not too strict on discipline, not too didactic in delivery and give us space to get to know one another. After 3 sessions I could even remember their names… mostly.
So now I get it, hey just call me a natural at this! 😀
Seriously, this post isn’t about blowing my own trumpet, there are elements of teaching which need work, this is just one of those that is in the bag I guess for me and so I’m feeling pretty smug about it. No, not smug, accomplished, yes accomplished is a much better word. Even if it was about blowing my own trumpet, why not? I have a right to, let’s face it so many people in this world nowadays want to bring you down, sometimes you have to blow your own trumpet to keep from losing your mind.
This post isn’t about that though, it’s about the importance of developing a good rapport with students. Is it possible to plan to do or is it part of personalities which we really don’t have much control over? I’m quite a stand offish person, I’ll muck in when there’s something to be done, I’ll contribute in classes and meetings to kill awkward silence or to speed along proceedings but generally I tend to be quite reserved. I have opinions that are not necessarily mainstream in a lot of topics and I don’t expect them to be understood so I don’t voice them. I’m not a phoney and can’t smile and be best friends with people I don’t know, won’t associate with in the future and don’t really care about or who don’t really care about me. I’m private, I choose who I let into my life and who I share things with and what I share with them. I blog but I blog selectively and specifically. I don’t mind if people don’t like me because chances are those people are not top of my favourite people list either. I don’t need to be popular, the people who matter to me know me and love me, that’s all I need. So then being able to appeal to a class full of people, being able to build a good relationship so quickly with groups and individuals is not something that goes hand in hand with my personality type and yet I do it.
I wonder if it’s because I just know it’s an essential part of the job and coupled with that I care deeply about doing a good job and on top of that I care deeply about each and every student leaving my class feeling they’ve learned something new or useful to them or feeling a bit of what I’m feeling right now… accomplished… proud… satisfied. I wonder if I’m just good at this relationship malarkey simply because I actually care.
Who knows? Just be thankful hey?