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Ashlee Lidyoff is an academic coach at Washington Unified School District in Central California.
Hi, my name is Ashlee Lidyoff and I’m currently an academic coach at Washington Unified School District in Central California. The title by topic is “Building Rapport at the Door,” and rapport is essential for building positive relationships with students.
When students feel like they have rapport or relationship with a teacher, they’re more likely to be engaged in learning, feel supported, and feel comfortable asking for help when they need it.
What we know is teaching is a work of heart, right? So we do need to connect with our students before we can teach them anything about content. The opportunities to build relationships with students and set the tone for your classroom can start really simply every day at the door. A gesture, like greeting students by name when they enter the classroom, can transform your classroom culture to one of safety and belonging, which is essential for students learning any content.
This is a great strategy for all content areas and all ages, but it continues to make an impact in middle school and high school. Building rapport at the door sets a tone of positivity, it builds relationships that are integral for teaching content, it provides opportunities to recognize student names and preferred pronouns, and it starts the class with an opportunity to give instructions to students upon entry.
Now, before you can greet students at the door, your first step is to make sure you have all instructional materials prepared and a set of directions for students to follow as they enter the classroom. Remember, you’re going to be at the door, so they must be direct and easy to follow.
Step two: have students enter the classroom one by one, taking the opportunity to greet each student by their name. A really good option is to have a printed class roster for each period to make notes on for pronunciations and pronouns. Ask them what name they like to go by, and then practice how to say it. Names have such power and this is also a great opportunity to take attendance.
Another deeper option to build rapport is developing a handshake with students, asking them to rate their day on a scale, or you can think of another way to gauge their emotions as they enter the class.
That could be a really great opportunity for a social-emotional check-in that could make a difference in preventing a disruptive classroom behavior, or it can help you anticipate that a student might need a break during class.
Lastly, once most of the students have entered the classroom, this is your opportunity to come inside and follow up on whether or not students are following the instructions, or to make some classroom announcements. This also is a moment to help clarify behavioral expectations and keep students accountable to being ready for class to begin when the bell rings.
Now, this doesn’t end at the door. You’re also going to continue to call students by their preferred names and pronouns during class. The more you use their names, the easier they’ll be to remember.
So, ensure you have a set of directions or a routine for students to follow when they enter the classroom. Utilize a class roster to note pronunciations or pronouns, as well as a chance to take attendance. And remember that sometimes students bring emotions to your class. This is a great opportunity to check in and provide emotional support before a disruption in the class.
Students remember the effort that you made to start class out with greeting, an encouragement, or a simple hello. This small change has huge dividends when it comes to establishing a positive and safe classroom environment that’s so necessary to learn.
Accompanying Materials & Resources
- Build Rapport at the Door – How to Build Rapport at the Door (Google Doc)
- Build Rapport at the Door – Students examples (PDF)
- Build Rapport at the Door – Example Directions for entry 1 (JPG)
- Build Rapport at the Door – Example Directions for entry 2 (JPG)