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It is important to think about the first few weeks of class as not only initial content days but also ways to create a community in the classroom. Doing so will build trust between the students and yourself and likely boost student performance on in-class activities. Below are some strategies on how to successfully build a rapport with students straight off the bat.

LEARN YOUR STUDENTS’ NAMES

Learning your students’ names, especially if it is a larger class, is an easy way to demonstrate to your students that you value them as people. If you are bad at names or if you have an extremely large class in which learning names is a daunting task, you can make use of the Online Photo App through Inside ND to help memorize student names outside of class. You may also be transparent about your trouble remembering names and have the students help you out. For example, you can have them create paper signs with their names on it that they display at their desks or have them say their name before they speak after raising their hand. Be aware that it might take students longer than you to remember each other’s names, so it is a good idea to either make sure you begin using the student’s names out loud as soon as you learn them or continue whatever activity you are using until you are confident that most people know each other.

LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR STUDENTS AS PEOPLE

Learning students’ names is only the first step toward making them feel valued not only as students but as people in your classroom. You can do this in a number of ways: arrive early and chat with them before class starts, take the first five minutes of class to discuss something of interest to them unrelated to class (you can have students choose the topics), or collect unofficial survey information after specific class periods. Just do what feels comfortable for you as a person. Please note that if you are going to collect responses from students at the end of a class period, be sure to follow up on their responses. You can do so individually or collectively, depending on the nature of what you want to address.

REVEAL SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF AS A PERSON

Having student’s know something about you as a person will help them identify with you better. For example, if you are teaching a film class, you might want to tell the students about your favorite movie, or chat about a new movie coming to theaters that you are particularly excited about. Expressing your opinion on a topic and allowing students to openly challenge or disagree with your statement in a respectful, evidence-based, dialogue can also go a long way in establishing yourself as a person with your own unique and informed positions. Don’t feel pressured to reveal anything that you are not comfortable with. Simply demonstrating your passion for the topic will reveal quite a bit about you and will make you more relatable as a teacher.

HAVE A META DISCUSSION ABOUT CLASS CONDUCT

One of the most important ways to build relationships with students in the classroom is to emphasize that the classroom is a safe space. You want to therefore emphasize and set guidelines for appropriate and respectful behavior. This is especially important if you are going to be dealing with controversial topics in class. The best way to set boundaries is to get students involved in the drafting of this guidelines so that they feel safe and empowered in the classroom.

FURTHER READING

A Short Article from the Social Psychology Network on Creating Rapport on the Classroom : http://www.socialpsychology.org/rapport.htm

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