Saturday, October 15, 2016

5 Tips to Building Rapport


a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other's feelings or ideas and communicate well.

As an educator, building rapport with students is essential.  A healthy rapport will lead to student buy-in and create a positive classroom environment.  Here is a list of my top 5 tips to help build rapport with your classes.

1. Get to know your students

I’ve listed this tip first because it is paramount to relationship building.  The first step in establishing rapport is learning the names and interests of your students.  This gesture shows that you care about who they are.  Students need to know you care!  Any master teacher makes it their business to learn their students’ likes, dislikes, hobbies and favorite sports teams.  Teachers can then leverage this information to increase engagement throughout the year.  For instance, if you have a handful of soccer players in your class, connect an analogy about soccer to your content and they will be instantly hooked.  Use the information to sustain rapport.   

2. Set the tone before class begins

There are many ways to create student excitement during your course, but have you ever tried doing so before class begins?  Two of my favorite “tone setting” techniques are greeting students at the door and playing music as they enter the room.  The first can be achieved by standing outside your classroom, greeting students with a smile and a simple question such as  “hello _____ how are you today?"  This will instantly connect you with individual students.  As teachers, it’s not always practical to conversate with every student every day. Trust me, students will appreciate the effort.  

The technique of playing music on a stereo or performing live (for the musically inclined) can be used while preparing for a lesson as students enter the room.  Music is a powerful tool that will relax your students and simultaneously buy you some time while gathering your thoughts, lesson materials or connecting your iPad to a projector.  It’s a win-win!  Believe it or not, you can even influence student mood by the genre of music you play.  If you have a shy class, try playing something upbeat to break them out of their shells or vice versa.  Students will love entering your room!

3. Communication is key

Always over-communicate expectations with your students. At the beginning of each course, I inform my students that it's possible for every one of them to achieve the grade of an “A+” in my class.  I also tell them I am rooting for them to get that “A+” and do everything in my power to help them along their journey. Students appreciate that I am “on their side”.  As the year progresses teachers must provide students with a clear pathway to success.  When assigning projects, always give detailed instructions and provide scoring rubrics in advance.  In regards to assessment, always give students time to prepare.  I suggest a minimum of three days advanced notice before testing.  On the day before the test, communicate where and how they should be studying to achieve that “A+”.  When you create your assessment, make sure it’s possible to achieve a perfect score by doing what you asked of them!  Nothing frustrates students more than a teacher with unpredictable tests.  Students respect the transparency and they will respect you for it.  Again, always over-communicate expectations with your students.  See what I did there?     

4. Pick your battles (Kids will be kids)

We’ve all heard the age old expression “boys will be boys”.  Well, in the field of education I always say, “kids will be kids”.  Students are going to be energetic, social and rambunctious at times.  That is what they do.  An exceptional teacher can channel that energy into something wonderful and use it to build rapport. Many new teachers feel the need to maintain control of their class 100% of the time.  However, I tend to enjoy a bit of chaotic energy from time to time.  Teachers must pick our battles wisely.  In my experience, I’ve found that students are aware of behavioral boundaries within a school setting.  The next time you see a student fooling around before class, just observe.  Sit back and let it happen.  In most cases, students will not take things too far (there are exceptions).  Do not micro-manage student behavior.  Do set clear behavioral boundaries and make students aware of them, your class will respect you and appreciate your trust.  You can also gain points this way and build a reputation of being the “cool” teacher.  

5. Empower your students

Last but not least, empowerment.  Providing your students with opportunities to help make decisions about curriculum will go a long way in building rapport.  In practice, I implement surveys and use survey results to guide instruction.  I believe it’s important to share survey results and let students know their input makes a difference!  In my classes, I announce survey results.  I might say “It seems most of you want to learn about “X”, so at some point we will incorporate that into our course this year.”  Students need to know their opinions matter to their teacher.

If you’ve enjoyed this post and would like to read more “Top Five Educational Blog Lists” written by gifted professionals check out the #sunchatbloggers hashtag on Twitter!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

What is EdCamp?

Last April I created a twitter account and began growing my professional learning network.  As a newly connected educator, I noticed a substantial amount of tweets on the topic of EdCamp.  My curiosity peaked over time as people from all over the nation tweeted and blogged about this innovative conference style.  On October 1, 2016, I attended the third annual EdCamp Long Island. 

For those that are unfamiliar, EdCamp is a participant-driven professional development model.  I’ve also heard EdCamps referred to as “unconferences”.  Unlike formal conferences where all speakers and workshop session presenters are selected months in advance, EdCamp presenters are unknown to the participants until the day of the conference.  Upon arriving at an EdCamp, participants are given a physical (left) program containing a QR code.  This code links to a Google Sheet where conference sessions are compiled live as presenters arrive.  There is something alluring about “not knowing” what you're going to learn about or discuss beforehand.  For passionate educators, this ignites that same feeling you get when unwrapping a birthday present.  You can feel the positive energy in the building as soon as you walk in.

If my EdCamp experience was any indicator of the range of session topics EdCamps generally offer, I can safely type that there is a something for everyone.  I attended four sessions on the topics of Aspiring Administrators, Women in Leadership, Collaborative Gaming and Creating a Reading Culture.  During these sessions the presenters acted more like moderators than typical clinicians.  In order to effectively run an EdCamp session presenters will ask thought provoking questions of their participants and let the magic happen.  These questions lead to spontaneous discussion amongst professionals.  The presenters talk less and facilitate more.   

There are direct correlations between EdCamp sessions and twitter chats.  For anyone well versed in twitter chats, EdCamp sessions are essentially face-to-face twitter chats.  In both instances you are gathered in a room (albeit online or in person) with like-minded professionals discussing topics that resonate with you.  These discussions lead to networking opportunities and create connections.  EdCamp granted me the opportunity to convert some of my online connections to real life relationships.  It was great to meet some of the brilliant educators I’ve interacted with previously online.  

All in all, I recommend attending a nearby EdCamp to anyone looking to enrich his or her knowledge of education as a whole.  EdCamps are usually FREE of charge and you can log the hours as professional development.  If that is not enticing to you, you may be in the wrong profession. 

What is your favorite aspect of the EdCamp model?