March 03, 2022
As a teacher, you’re probably well aware of the importance of developing a rapport with the students in your class. While this can be a challenge in itself for full-time teachers, what about casual relief teachers who constantly hop between classes and schools and may rarely teach the same group of students twice?
While it’s true that not having the benefit of time to develop a relationship with your students is an additional challenge, there are plenty of strategies you can use to get your students on-side, even if you never end up teaching them again.
But before we get into that…
For teachers, there are so many benefits to building rapport with your students beyond what may immediately come to mind. Yes, the day-to-day running of the classroom will be smoother when your students respect you as a teacher and see you as a person whose life extends beyond the confines of the school. You can add to that the benefits to your students, which include a better experience in the classroom and the increased chance they will become lifelong learners.
As you probably know, establishing rapport can be an uphill battle for teachers at the best of times. For casual relief teachers, add to that the time crunch that exists when you’re likely to only be with a class for a short period of time and things can get even trickier. Here’s some tried and tested strategies to help you establish rapport with any class right off the bat.
Practice what you preach
As a teacher, it’s likely your students will have their eyes on you from the moment you walk into the classroom. It just goes with the territory. Because they are so attuned to what you’re saying and doing, it’s important to be mindful of the verbal and nonverbal cues you are sending.
It’s no secret that as a casual teacher you don’t always have a say over what you end up teaching. And because of that, you will probably find yourself covering subjects you find less than thrilling. Putting that aside, it’s no use trying to inspire enthusiasm for Pythagoras’ theorem among your students if you have a stank look on your face while you struggle through the lesson.
Regardless of your personal feelings for a subject, it’s important to dig deep and remind yourself why what you are teaching is important. When your enthusiasm shows, your students will pick up on this energy and be more likely to pay attention and engage with the lesson and you as a teacher.
Like anyone, your students are more likely to respond positively to you if they perceive you to be approachable. As a casual teacher, there are a few ways you can go about this. For starters, making yourself available by arriving to class a few minutes early and not rushing out the second the lesson is over is a good place to start. While you’re in class, do your best to make your lessons engaging by making eye contact, calling on your students and moving around the room rather than lecturing from the front. While these are small steps, together they can have a big change in how you’re seen by your students.
Remember, you set the tone in the classroom, so by making an effort to be approachable, you are laying the groundwork to build rapport with your students.
Another great way to break down the barriers with your students is to share personal details about yourself. Not only will this help your class understand you as a person, they might just realise they have more in common with you than they thought.
While it’s understandable that you may not want to share in-depth details about your personal life with your students, there are little details you can share that will have a big impact. Maybe your youngest child took her first steps over the weekend, or your touch football team won against your opponents last night. These sorts of details, small as they may seem, will go a long way to humanize you in the eyes of your students.
And don’t stop at yourself. A great ice breaker—particularly when teaching a new class for the first time—is getting your students to share something about themselves. Which leads us to the next strategy.
Listen and remember
While it can be tricky for casual teachers to remember information about individual students when they teach a large number of different classes, if you find yourself teaching the same students for an extended period of time, it’s well worth trying to remember the little things so you can build rapport.
As a starting point, even making an effort to remember your student’s names goes a long way. The most obvious benefit of this you’ll notice is that your students will become more engaged both in the content you are teaching and you as a teacher. An added benefit of taking the time to get to know your students is being able to spot when there is a problem and address it as quickly as possible, preventing a disruption to your class. Which leads us to the last point.
One of the biggest hurdles for any teacher, but especially casual teachers, is maintaining a sense of order and keeping the class on track. We’ve all had a room of students, flying high on a cocktail of teenage hormones and tuck-shop icy poles deteriorate into chaos after lunch. The easiest way to prevent this from happening and maintain the respect of the class is by having a set of clear, simple instructions for your students to follow. Like with anything in teaching, consistency is everything in this approach so it’s important to hold your students to the same standard in every class.
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