Building Rapport with Students: 10 Reasons to Greet Them at the Door

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The topic of building rapport with students came up in a Voxer conversation, rekindling interest in this excellent post from B or I contributor Reed Gillespie. Share your own rapport-building strategies in our comment section.

When you walk into restaurants and many shops, someone greets you as you enter. With a smile, the host makes you feel welcome and sets a positive tone for your dining or shopping experience. The same principle applies to students entering your classroom. While not always possible, we should strive to welcome our students to our classes every day, because building rapport with students is half the battle.

10 Reasons to Greet Students at the Door

  1. Build relationships with your students enhances their emotional needs, as well as yours.
  2. Offer praise and feedback (this need not be class related).
  3. Some students, like those with ADD/ADHD, have trouble switching classes. Greet these students at the door with explicit directions about what to do. For some of my more challenging students, I would essentially escort them to their seats to ensure they started class on task. 
  4. It gives you a chance to connect with every student and to gauge their emotional state.
  5. Students have a lot to say and we should take the time to listen to them.
  6. Albeit brief, it’s a chance to have a one-on-one conversation with a student.
  7. It gives you an opportunity to model (and for students to practice) socially acceptable behaviors, like eye contact, a firm handshake, and good posture.
  8. You can ask each student a question to formatively assess their understanding of the previous day’s lesson. With some classes I’d take this a step further and ask a question which the students had to get right before entering class.
  9. Teach the students respectful behaviors. My rule was a simple one, “Every time I ask you a question, please answer the question and ask a question in return.”
    1. Me: Did you watch the football game last night?
    2. JJ: Yeah, I can’t believe the Redskins lost. Did you watch it
    3. Me: Of course. Not sure why it surprised you though. They’ve been awful this year. A matter of caution, I’d often ask about their lives outside of school and about their weekends. For students with horrible home lives, doing so sets them back and can ruin your effort at fostering a welcoming classroom environment.
  10. It can be a time saver. While I had a consistent classroom routine, greeting students at the door would allow you to cue them to something that may be different (please be sure to turn in your homework or please pick up the work you missed yesterday from the absent folder).

Simply greeting students at the door has been proven to increase student attention to learning (on-task behavior) and it establishes teacher rapport with students.

It’s simple and effective and worth the little extra effort.

Be sure to share this with friends and colleagues, so they can build rapport, too.

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Reed Gillespie

Reed is a longtime educator and coach, who is passionate about progressive learning and 21st-century assessment practices. Read more of his work here. "I'm a co-moderator of #VAchat, a Twitter conversation for Virginia (and non-Virginian) educators that meets Monday's at 8 ET. Most importantly, I'm a father of four wonderful children and a couple grandchildren. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, reading, sports and, of course, spending time with family."

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