When Rapport Just Happens

The truth is, I was really worried about walking into this classroom. You see, I haven’t strictly taught a conversation based class in six years. More importantly, I haven’t taught a beginner class in that time either.

To top it off, I didn’t have fond memories of this particular classroom. When I taught beginner conversation classes six years ago, it’s in this classroom I recalled my biggest challenges: building rapport with quiet students whose interestย in learning to speak English either didn’t exist or slowly dissipated as the semester went on. I remembered how much I had dreaded walking into this classroom back then. Looking back, perhaps my students’ motivation was a reflection of my apprehension.

Then on Friday, after all that worrying, ย this happened.

IMG_4607This was my second class with this group of freshman. During the first class we did an icebreaker activity which involved finding out how old I was (age is an important factor in how relationships are built in Korea). Some students remembered that our Fridayย class together would be my 38th birthday. I never thought they would remember let alone go as far as buying a cake!

And just like that, my fears went out the door. We had a small celebration together which included one of the best rapport builders I know in Korea: group pictures.

During the rest of the class students shared their own birth dates. Some students discovered they were born on the same day. Then some learned the were from the same city; then the same majors.

Sometimes we can plan ways to build rapport with our students, but most of the time it’s just about being open to genuine moments of connection.

To learn more about building rapport with your language students, join #KELTchat tonight (September 9) from 8 to 9pm (Korea time) on Twitter.

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7 thoughts on “When Rapport Just Happens

  1. LOVE this post, Josette! As a long-time educator who is simply fed up with most of the PD that is offered by “Curriculum Specialists” who have been too long out of the class-room, it is a breath of fresh air to witness your challenges, and obvious rewards, of returning to the “front line,” where the majority of teachers spend most of our time! And I have no doubt that this experience will make your work with teacher training much more rich and applicable.

  2. Thanks for this post. I had known nothing about dreading entering such a classroom (or teaching it, either!) before I came here. Now I share the feeling you described, to my big regret.. I have thought not once that my apprehension and assumptions about those classes (students?) are harmful for planning and, most importantly, for holding a lesson I’d label as good..
    I am trying to lose that bias. It is hard and feels like a burden..

    1. It is heavy stuff isn’t it? I’m so sorry to hear that you have had to experience this. You lived in such a special reality back then.

      One thing I’ve come to realize is that this space is incredibly rich in terms of self-growth. It is in these dreadful situations that I have faced myself the most. I don’t know if that lessens your burden at all. :(

      Can you say more about what feels like a burden? Do you mean that trying to lose the bias feels like a burden, or that the bias itself feels like a burden?

  3. Yay! Maybe rapport is getting easier for you the longer you live in one place and come to know the culture and people of the place where you are working. Every school has its own culture. I am comfortable with our clientele and the parents are comfortable with with me teaching their children. I wonder if they convey this confidence to their children which then transfers to our times together in lessons. Thanks for your post Josette.

    1. Thanks for reading Anna! I think you are correct in saying that rapport gets easier once you understand the community and culture. I feel at ease in Korean culture, but being away from Freshman for 5 years, I realized I forgot what this culture is about! Haha… it’s important to stay connected to the age group you teach.

      You make an interesting point regarding transferring confidence. I have no doubt this is the case.

      All the best dear!

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