Question Detail

How can a new teacher build a rapport with students that balances friendliness with professional distance?

May 18, 2016 6:46am

  • Behavior / Class Culture / New Teachers


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    • Jun 10, 2016 6:19am

      I believe the separation between friendliness and friend can happen on the first day when building a foundation of how your classroom runs. Some great examples of how to draw the line is to always wear professional attire and not dress like the students, keep an open door policy with your door open, create a social media site for the entire class to interact versus friending students on personal sites, and use professional language. I believe the line can start to get blurred whenever there is a two-way sharing of aspects of your life. It can be easy to share certain things with a student when trying to relate to them and show empathy for their situation. There are two things we can use to help guide us. First consider what you're about to say before you speak and secondly consider how it would sound to anyone who overheard. We may have the best intentions but perception is huge in this area.

      • Jun 16, 2016 4:02pm

        I think that it is very important to establish rules and procedures from the very beginning. Establishing that boundary on day one, and continuing it will help build the teacher/student relationship balance. Let the students know that their are certain boundaries that cannot be crossed, but in the same time do reflect the student when they genuinely need help and support. Like stated many times before, finding a connection with the students, but do not share too much information. Also being continuous and genuine with your behavior will definitely that balance between friendliness and professional business.

        • May 20, 2016 7:15am

          Such a great question. I think it is different than friendliness. I want my students to know I care about them and that I will work very hard with them to achieve their goals. I will do it in kind, respectful ways. I am their teacher, their advocate, their cheerleader. But I am not their friend; I am their teacher. No connections with my personal accounts on social media. No personal phone numbers shared. If some students cross a line I'm not comfortable with, I address it respectfully. I think it can be like walking a fine line a lot of the time. Are you teaching high school or middle school?

          • Jun 12, 2016 2:44pm

            As long as teachers set up the appropriate boundaries, they should not have too much difficulty building rapport with students while maintaining professional distance. First, teachers should smile at the students, not just when they walk in the door, but on a regular basis in order to create warmth and reassurance. In addition to helping students learn, teachers should also show an interest in their students and find out about their hobbies and family lives. They should also dress appropriately and use professional language, as opposed to using slang or informal chit chat. Most importantly, teachers should treat students with dignity and respect, even when they have to discipline them. On the other hand, teachers should not share personal problems or overly intimate details about their lives with students, and they should not be alone in a closed room with a student. They also should refrain from “friending” them on social media web sites or hanging out with them informally at school or off-campus. As long as the boundaries between “friendly” and “friend” are maintained, teachers should have few, if any, problems with building an appropriate relationship with students.

            • Jun 12, 2016 4:18pm

              I think that the key is to maintaining the boundaries between "friendly" and "friend" is to always maintain your professional persona. Even if you run into students at a restaurant or at the fair with your kids, you are still their teacher. You should still speak and act in a similar way to how you speak and act at school. Another thing that is great for building rapport is to attend extracurricular events, but you should be clear that you mean SCHOOL (or similar) events, not personal ones. For example, going to a basketball game, dance recital, or quizbowl tournament is great, but birthday parties and first communions are not!

              • Jun 13, 2016 7:29am

                I believe the ability maintain the boundaries and draw the lines between professional and friend help keep teachers safe. To be friendly as a teacher and build rapport is as simple as a friendly smile, a positive greeting, listening to students while in the classroom, and attending school events. Maintaining a professional persona is definitely key and this means even when you are off duty and out in the public eye. Acting and dressing professional even out in public helps a teacher never lose face with the public. I agree with avoiding personal connections through with students connecting to you via social media. Students do not need to know too much about your personal life, but taking an interest in their lives can help build rapport. A teacher should also respectfully let a student know if they overstep the boundary lines.

                • Jun 14, 2016 6:57am

                  A new teacher can build a friendly rapport with students and maintain a professional distance by modeling professionalism in face-to-face interactions with students. If your students perceive you as an authority figure, they will treat you with respect. This means to consider everything from your tone of voice, the way you dress, and it is important to expect your students to address you formally. Always when working in a professional environment, such as a classroom, you need to use professional language. With that said, you don’t have to be stuffy. A sense of humor and “being yourself” can go a long way with your students!

                  • Jun 14, 2016 7:31am

                    Teachers can build a rapport with students that is friendly and maintain a professional distance starting day one. It begins with the teacher enforcing his/her classroom rules and procedures, and giving each student the same respect as one another. The teacher must obtain professional behavior at all times, should dress appropriately not only at school but in the public eye. Teacher can build and maintain the rapport by showing interest and empathy in a student's life but not sharing personal or school business with students. Teachers also can build rapport by attending school related social events such as a football or basketball game. Teachers should also keep social media ties to a classroom as a whole and not on a personal page.

                    • Jun 15, 2016 3:03pm

                      I think the best way to establish and maintain rapport with students is to treat them all fairly and to follow through with your promises to them. For example, if you tell them that you will listen to and advocate for them, ask their opinions about school or district issues and make their voices heard in meetings, professional developments, etc. If you let them know that you did so, and something comes of it, you will establish a positive rapport with the students. Also, by treating everyone equitably and abiding by the contracts you gave them at the beginning of the year, the students understand that everyone has an equal chance to succeed.

                      • Jun 15, 2016 7:49pm

                        I think you have to show interest in the students and find out what they're interested in and let that be a way to connect with them. Show them that you are concerned for them and care about them and will help them achieve want they want to achieve. The thing you can't do, or need to do very sparingly, is share your personal life, specifically your emotions, that is an easy way for them to feel connected to you in a personal way that violates the professional relationship. Just be very careful about what kind of personal information you are sharing. Certainly don't give personal phone numbers, emails, or addresses. It sounds bad to expect them to open up to you without you opening up to them, but that is part of the student-teacher relationship. Also, don't try to take the place of their parent or guardian if they come to you with a personal issue. If they are having a serious situation, it's important to show sympathy, but don't let them make you their main avenue of support. Suggest they tell their parents about it. If they really don't want to talk to their parents, suggest they talk to the counselor.

                        • Jun 16, 2016 7:08am

                          I think building a rapport with students, without being a friend to them, can be a delicate undertaking. First, a rapport and mutual respect is something that can take time, especially with some students who may have trust issues from their lives outside of school, or from former teachers. So, I believe that some students will take longer to trust that you are looking out for their best interests, and that you want to help them, not just boss them around. So, like everything worth anything in life, you must have patience.
                          Keeping a professional relationship with your students is of great importance. These children (yes, even high school seniors are still children) need an adult to help them navigate their academic lives. If a teacher becomes too much of a friend to their students it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to go back to being an authority figure in the classroom when it inevitably becomes necessary.
                          At the same time you are an authority figure, and not a friend, you must also be friendly so that you build that rapport and trust with your students. You can accomplish this by being genuine with your students; by having interest in them, their goals, and their lives. If you are there to congratulate them on their successes, and are there to reprimand them when bad choices have been made, if you are there to cheer them on, and are there to motivate them when they are down, you will build that rapport that is so vital to an enviable classroom environment.

                          • Jun 16, 2016 1:36pm

                            Building rapport with students is important to creating a classroom community, promoting respect, and making sure our students know that we care. “There is a difference between being friendly and being a friend.” In order to maintain a professional distance, new teachers must consider how their words, actions, attitude, and intentions are perceived by their students. I appreciated the conversation about keeping your room a place for school business purposes. Allowing students to hang out in your classroom at lunch for no school-related purpose is letting them be a part of your personal time, and they are sharing their personal time with you. Avoid showing favoritism - students can be very perceptive about this. Let them share with you their successes, failures, good days, and bad days, but be certain that you are not sharing too much personal information with them – they should not hear about any frustrations or issues you have regarding the school, colleagues, or supervisors. Have social media pages for the class; don’t share your personal accounts with students.

                            • Jun 16, 2016 3:17pm

                              I typically consider people friendly when they seem genuinely interested in taking time to converse. It doesn't take much more than that, honestly. I think a teacher can be friendly by simply taking the time to converse with students. How does that look? It means she knows the student's name, expresses interest in the student's life, and is making eye contact and genuinely listening to the student as he or she speaks. It means that the next time they speak, she remembers what the student shared, and therefore makes the student feel cared for and important. It does not mean that the teacher is sharing personal details about her life with the student. That is what keeps the relationship professional. Of course students want to know a little about your life to connect with you. However, students should never know about a teacher's social/emotional/family problems. Those conversations take the relationship from friendly to unprofessional.

                              • Jun 16, 2016 6:42pm

                                A new teacher can build a rapport with students by being engaging and friendly. The needs to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding for her students. This can be done in many ways. From day one the teacher must set the rules and consequences consistent for all of the students. The teacher must behave in a professional manner at all times, even if there is a particular student that you get along with better. As a new teacher you must a keep distance so the student doesn’t cross a boundary in to a friend area rather than student. Some examples are by not to allowing students to hang out in your classroom during lunch or other free times. This is a danger zone that could lead to the student thinking you are their friend or other negative situation. Never engage a student as you would one of your friends. There is certain information the students don’t need to know about your personal life.

                                • Jun 16, 2016 9:21pm

                                  I love that this is a topic of discussion. I can remember several examples of good and bad approaches that my teachers in high school took. It's such a fine line to walk, especially when it's a young teacher dealing with secondary-level students. I think one important way to check yourself is to make sure you don't have "favorites." When the other students see one or two particular students receiving more attention, that harms the learning environment and puts both teacher and student at risk. On a similar note, interacting equally with both male and female students will help the class see you as a professional. Lastly, I think communication with parents is a good way to keep the right perspective. Those open lines of communication help everyone (student, teacher, parent) that you are concerned with the students' education and that you care for their well-being in a friendly, but professional, way.

                                  • Jun 16, 2016 9:33pm

                                    Building rapport with your students can be a very difficult task. Mainly because it is extremely difficult to be friendly and stern at the same time. Several students don’t understand that their teachers can have their best interest at heart and remain firm when handling bad behavior. I believe building rapport starts with the teacher setting the class foundation and being consistent when dealing with classroom issues. It may seem that students aren’t paying attention but they are at all times. Students know when teachers are inconsistent and they will lose respect for their teacher. Another way I build rapport with my students is to support them during their after school activities. I have attended baseball, basketball, cheerleading, and church events. Students would work harder for me and their classroom behavior improved.