September 26, 2011

Rapport-building in the ROLE

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In the post, "Dealing with reluctant learners," I emphasize the power of rapport-building with students as a way to get reluctant learners to embrace results-only learning. At the end of that post, I promised to share some examples.

The simple sidebar
Not unfamiliar to any teacher, the simple sidebar is the chat that is in some cases completely unrelated to the content of the class. It's what appears to be nothing more than small talk; questions like, "Did you have a good weekend, Erica?" or "How did your band concert go? I wish I could have been there, David." As insignificant as these sidebars appear, they go a long way to cementing good student-teacher rapport, as they show genuine care and, sadly, many students don't believe teachers care about them.

The private chat
The results-only teacher, I believe, does more with the private chat than the traditional teacher. Where a traditional classroom teacher uses the private chat to threaten consequences, the ROLE teacher pulls a student aside to re-emphasize what the student needs to be an effective part of the learning community. A private chat with a reluctant learner might look like this:
Teacher: "I think that you are socializing a bit too much, and it's keeping you and your group from meeting your project goals."
Student: "I don't like this project; I think it's boring."
Teacher: "Hmm., did you forget that you have choice in the project? Maybe you should choose a different part, or create a project of your own."
Student: "I can do that?"
Granted, the student is not this agreeable in every case and, sometimes, a subsequent private chat is necessary. The key is to keep them positive and focused on the goals; emphasize that the student plays a valuable role in a small group and a larger learning community.

Self-deprecating humor
In my traditional teacher days, I used sarcasm with students. It took me many years to learn that sarcasm never helps and, in many cases, can leave long-lasting scars on student-teacher relationships. I have since replaced sarcasm with self-deprecating humor, something all students appreciate.

I often ask students to repeat an earlier instruction -- nothing revolutionary. I usually say it in a self-deprecating way: "Someone remind me where we're meeting tomorrow; you know, when  you get to be my age, the memory is the first thing to go."

Many teachers seem to be born with this easy-going style. For those of you who are not, it's easy to adapt to it. If I did it, anyone can (see, self-deprecating humor).