Rapport - The Greatest Tool for Teaching

Rapport. We do our best as teachers to build it with our pupils. Yet do we always prioritise it highly enough? I have found that, in the classroom, rapport is one of the greatest tools for teaching I can utilise. 

Anyone who has stepped foot inside the classroom or dared to delve into a school setting for a period of time will understand: Teaching is one of the most emotionally driven careers you can have. It is no secret that teachers don’t just rock up and simply present learning each day! Even those who haven’t personally experienced the school setting have some understanding of the job. How many times have you smiled and nodded as you’ve heard, for example, ‘Oh yes, my auntie was a teacher. So was my neighbour. It’s not all playing and holidays, is it?’

As teachers, we love to do what we do! Mind-blowing planning, exciting lesson content, hooks for engagement, varied questioning, the use of drama, an envelope or mysterious box (what is it about an envelope anyway?). Yes, our carefully crafted plans, differentiated resources and fun presentations are a hugely significant tool for teaching, but these may as well turn to dust and gather on the tops of bookshelves if we lack the one thing that opens our pupils up to the sheer concept of learning: rapport. 

The meaning of life has long been under discussion. What is the point in it all? This question has lingered around the minds of humans for generations. Interestingly, scientists and neuroscientists have explored this question and present the concept that the need for human connection is comparable to other basic human needs, such as water and food. 

Social connections are being considered as essential to our survival. With this in mind, take a moment to consider how connected you are with those in your life; be it family, friends, colleagues or even pets. How connected are you right now with your loved ones? These connections with others are built through rapport (officially defined as: a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other's feelings or ideas and communicate well.) 

Rapport allows us to bond with another person, sharing a mutual understanding and respect with them. It seems to me that once you have good rapport with someone, they are more likely to empathise with you, follow your lead and possess the desire to make you proud. They will be more relaxed in your company and will feel a deep trust with you. 

For us as educators and human beings, developing an understanding of and directing our attention towards these findings is twofold. 

Firstly, in our professional lives. Bearing in mind what we know about the significance of connection, we should aim to develop the strongest rapport we can with our pupils. Be this through truly giving them time to share their ideas, building trust through supportive and calming approaches, showing empathy to them, allowing them to learn more about us as real people or providing them with whatever it is they need, rapport is going to forge a better relationship between ‘them’ and ‘us’. 

Fostering strong relationships with pupils will lead to them feeling more inclined to impress you, respect you and trust you. The better rapport I have with a pupil, the more likely they are to listen intently to me, complete the work I present, rise to challenges and be honest when they need my help. I too have benefitted from having great rapport with my pupils. The connections I make with them have led to them showing empathy towards me. 

One example that springs to mind is when I’d had ‘one of those’ mornings at home and a boy in my class (year four) approached me after maths asking ‘Miss, are you alright? You don’t seem yourself today’. He was looking out for me- just as I had for him. 

Secondly, knowing this about rapport should enable us to reflect on our own personal lives. Think back to those people you thought of when you took thirty seconds out to reflect. How connected are you with them whilst you have work on the brain? We love our jobs (and quite right too!), but truly connecting with those around us, outside of the school halls and walls, is going to have an immeasurable impact on our rapport with them. We owe it to ourselves to ensure that we get our basic needs met- lunch, plenty of water AND social connections with those who we hold most dear. 

If together we really are stronger, then rapport is the super-glue that is going bond with those around us. And if strong rapport is going to contribute better results and improve teacher wellbeing, let’s find ways to prioritise it. 

Found this interesting? Want to find out more? Have opposing views or questions about this? Connect with myself and other educators at a Teach Meet at our Outstanding school, Newington Community Primary School in Ramsgate, Kent. We will be hosting Teach Meets for Kent (and beyond) educators who are keen to discuss and debate topical issues with opportunities to share best practice and pool ideas. For details and information, please contact h.beech@newington-ramsgate.kent.sch.uk or headteacher@newington-ramsgate.kent.sch.uk to express an interest in attending. 

Check out our recent post on teaching children to be resilient

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