Personal Relationship Building – Skilful Teacher Chapter 13


A summary by Ms Monica Suan

How do I build good personal relationships with students and make them feel truly known and valued? Why good personal relations connect to student achievements.  Here are SIX key teacher traits

Rapport 2_Engage the students first

A good teacher teaches the mind through the heart……

Educational research suggests that there is a strong association between student-teacher relationships and student retention, achievement, and aspirations.  In other words, when teachers have regard and respect for students and vice-versa, learning proceeds better.

A positive teacher-students relationship impact the climate and management of a classroom.   A teacher who invests in time and energy in building relationships with her students signals to them that they are respected and valued as worthwhile individuals, which most often results in students’ liking and respecting their teacher. In turn, students perform much better in environments where they feel comfortable and valued.  They will participate and contribute positively to the classroom climate and will be less likely to become discipline problems.   Positive relationships contribute to a climate where greater energy available for – and devoted to – learning.

A strong positive relationship is to say to a student. “I value you and I care.”

Six key teacher traits for a positive teacher-students relationship

When students are interviewed about relationship with teachers, there is a cluster of teacher traits that students repeatedly mention as important.

Trait One – Acknowledging

Acknowledging students as persons and show they are valued thereby relaying to them a message of hope…..

There are several ways to make students feel noticed and acknowledged, most importantly, valued.

  1. Greet the students you teach by their names as they walk past you along the corridors or even in the canteen.
  2. Ask about their health after they come back from a medical absence.
  3. Tell them you notice they have a new haircut.
  4. Make eye contact with them during lesson.
  5. Thank them by their name after they volunteered an answer in class.
  6. Notice when they are not participating in class and encouraging them to try.
  7. Notice a student has a confused look on his face and walk forward and quietly ask if she needs help.

Rapport 4

Trait Two – Communicating Value

  • Showing interest
    • Know their names and use them when addressing them in and out of the class.
    • Listen carefully and actively learn about their concerns and fears.
    • Ask about their strengths and interests.
    • Find out about their daily schedule in and out of school.
    • Know about their responsibilities outside of school.
    • Ask about their day.
    • Inquire about them if they have been ill.
    • Teachers can made students feel important by
      • Connecting academic work to their interests.
      • Using their names in instructional examples.
      • Asking about what is bothering them when they look sad.
  • Teachers can show interest in them as a learner
    • Gather data from them about the types of learners they are and use that to help them learn better or more about themselves as learners.
    • Find out about their positive and negative experiences in school or a particular subject area.
    • Find out what they already know or have experienced in relation to a topic or skill.
    • Getting feedback from them about what supports their learning, what hinders it and responding to their responses.
    • Showing interest in the material taught and presenting it with passion and enthusiasm to the students.
    • Making connections to their world so that they see reasons why the material is worth learning.
  • Active Listening
  • “She listens to me.” say the students about teachers they like and respect…..
  • Students like teachers who are willing to listen and really hear what they have to say.

Listening with focus means

  1. Listening attentively and without interruption.
  2. Acknowledging (both verbally and non verbally) what is being said.
  3. Inquiring for details rather than make assumptions when information is vague or unclear.
  4. Checking understanding by paraphrasing or summarizing to ensure you heard accurately.
  5. Posing reflective questions that invites further thinking or exploration of a topic of interest or concern to a student.

Listening with empathy means

  1. listening in a way that enables us to understand both the content of what the speaker is saying and the feelings that accompany the content.
  2. communicating concern for the students’ personal feeling states and desire to understand. It makes the child feel understood and cared about.
  • High expectations and persistence

The students need to see that the teacher regards them as a worthwhile person who is important enough for the teacher to take time and effort to push them and persist with them to meet the high expectations set for them by the teacher.

High expectations are set for

  • Academic performance
  • Work habits
  • Interpersonal behavior
  • Active participant in class
  • Punctuality
  • Taking responsibility
  • Assuming leadership roles

Persistence is when we ‘chase’ the students who are not meeting our expectations. Our persistence signals our conviction that they can do it and we won’t give up on them.

Examples of how we portray ‘Persistence’

  1. Finding that student in the halls and reminding him that he needs to see you.
  2. Make extra time to tutor a student, or even to ensure he gets the work done.
  3. Sticking with a student and explaining until he gets it.
  4.  Finding three more ways to explain something to that student when the first three didn’t work.
  5. Wake up calls to a student who is chronically late for school.
  • Re- establishing Contact

Re-establish contact after a strong reprimand session by interacting with a positive personal way to the student. This is to show that the teacher is not carrying a grudge and to remove tension between teacher and student so that there is an emotional entry back to the flow of activities.

  • Being accessible

Make time available for students outside of class time for extra academic help

Trait Three – Respect

How students define respect

  • Treat us as valued and capable human beings.
  • Give us chance to express our opinions and views without being put down.
  • Involve us in decisions that will directly affect us.
  • Speak to us with the same courtesy and respect you want from us.
  • Treat each of us as capable of challenging work.
  • Treat us as individuals and care about what’s going on for us.
  • Appreciate our differences and individuals styles.
  • Treat our work and products we produce with care.
  • Don’t compare us to other students.
  • Discipline us privately when the need arises.
  • Respond to misbehavior at the individual level rather than hold the whole class responsible for the actions of one student or a small group.
  • Correct our mistakes without using put downs, making us feel dumb or shaming us.
  • Present ideas or activities in ways we can relate to.
  • Give us feedback on our work that shows you really examine it.
  • Give us feedback that we can use to improve our performance.
  • Return our assignments on a timely manner.
  • When we tell you things in private, keep them private.
  • When we take risks, support us and protect our right to fail.
  • Inspire us as a role model of what you expect from us.

Rapport 3

Trait Four – Fairness

Teachers who win students’ trust and respect are the ones who perceived as fair.

What is ‘fair’?

  • Let us know the criteria for assessing our work.
  • Grade us fairly.
  • Create reasonable rules, apply them consistently and fairly and be flexible.
  • Don’t play favourites.
  • Don’t favour those you think will do best.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Ask questions.
  • When there is conflicts between two students, make sure you hear both sides before delivering consequences.
  • Let us know when you are displease with us, don’t just explode suddenly at someone.
  • Warn us first, at least twice or three times before impose the consequences.

Trait Five – Realness

Students want teachers who are willing to talk about their own lives and personal lives and experiences.

Sharing anecdotes from our own lives and integrating appropriate personal experiences into explanations and presentations enable students to know us as people.

Use ‘I’ message to let students see teachers as a person with feelings when addressing disruptive behavior. Children have no idea their behavior was affecting their teachers adversely.

Trait Six – Humor and fun

Humor is a form of caring.  Teachers need not be comedians but those who respond openly to humorous moments or those who can joke with students seem to strike particularly responsive chords.

Students like teachers who are happy, tell funny stories, can laugh at themselves, laugh when something genuinely humorous happens in class. In other words, they know how to have fun and can enjoy doing that with them.Rapport 2_Engage the students first


2 Easy Ways To Build Rapport With Your Students


Are you able to get through to your students? Do you have difficulty starting conversations on Tuesday and Thursday morning? Do students find you approachable? Can you scold your students one moment and still have lunch with them the next?

Read this article below from Michael Linsin. After that our contributor, Dorothy Lim comments on building rapport.

by Michael Linsin on January 14, 2012

one class

Building rapport with students can be a remarkably effective way to improve classroom management. But there is some confusion over what rapport is and how one goes about building it.

Rapport is nothing more than a connection you make with your students based on their positive feelings for you. When they like you and trust you, and when you in turn like and believe in them, you’ll form a bond that makes classroom management a lot easier.

It’s as simple as that.

But rapport isn’t something you can force upon your students. Teachers who try to engage individual students directly… “Hey, what’s your favorite video game?” …often find the interaction brief and awkward and the results less than influential.

To build genuine rapport, you have to draw students to you. You have to use your personality, your humor, and your charisma to get students to want to be around you and take an interest in who you are. It’s this natural appeal that allows you to effortlessly make personal connections with students and influence their behavior choices—often without ever having to say a word.

The idea of using one’s everyday personality to draw students in and build rapport makes sense to most teachers, but many struggle with how to put it into practice. What exactly does it look like? I’ve gotten this question a lot over the years, and the truth is we all have different personalities. We all have our own unique talents, traits, sense of humor, and joie de vivre. The simple answer is to just be likeable and rapport building will take care of itself.

However, I know how helpful it can be to hear specific examples. So in that spirit, here are two easy-peasy ways you can build rapport today—and see results almost immediately.

1. Smile until they smile.

image 2

I love this strategy and find it works even when I’ve never met the students before. You can use it anytime you’re passing out materials, checking student work, taking attendance, or anytime you have occasion to make eye contact with individual students.

Let’s say for example you’re taking attendance. As you say each student’s name, you would take a moment to look up and smile at the student. You would then continue making eye contact and smiling until the student smiles back at you. And that’s it. What it does is allow you to make an instant positive and personal connection with each student. It communicates a thousand wonderful things in just a couple of seconds. And when you’re finished, each student will see you in a different light. You may notice other students begin to giggle as you do this. That’s okay. It’s all good. Sometimes I make funny faces instead of smiling or I’ll exaggerate a frown until they do the same. It’s really fun. And lest you think your students are too old or too cool, I’ve used this strategy with sixth-graders to great effect and wouldn’t hesitate to use it with older students.

2. Tell a story about your childhood.

tell story

If you’re a regular reader of this website, or if you’ve read the book Dream Class, then you know the power of storytelling. Nothing… nothing, nothing, nothing is more effective. Done a certain way, it can put your students in the palm of your hand. It does, however, take some practice.

Telling a story about your childhood is a good place to start. It places you in an environment they’re unfamiliar picturing you in, but one in which they can closely identify with. You become, then, not so different than them—making connections easier. I’ve found stories about adventures or comedic hard luck to be most effective. But really anything with a twist or a surprise works.

Acting out the story is also especially effective. But it’s important you have fun with it; stories about your dog Snowflake dying are verboten. Why storytelling works so well is in some ways still a mystery to me. There is no doubt that your students will love it and love you because of it. If you become a good storyteller, it will completely change your teaching and will dramatically affect the influence you have with your students.

Tearing Down Walls

It’s important to note that one of the keys to building rapport is what you don’t do. Many teachers have a hard time building rapport because they respond emotionally to misbehavior. They show frustration, they scold, they lecture, and in so doing they erect a giant wall between themselves and their students.

Building rapport is about tearing down walls, some of which are put up by your students before you even meet them.

One thing is for certain: Building rapport has the potential to impact every important area of your teaching—classroom management, difficult students, motivation, independence, academic progress.


Dorothy Lim says:

To me, there 2 things that I feel are important to help me build rapport with my students.
(1) Respect
This is the only rule or expected behaviour in my classroom and it is what I convey to my kids on the first day of school. And as much as I ask them to respect me, to respect their peers, themselves and the subject, I also make this promise to them that I will role model by respecting them as individuals too. And so, our classroom has become a safe haven for discussion –  discussion about anything and everything. For example, whenever students are unable to submit work on time, they will come forward on their own to discuss how we can work around the problem. And the solution has to be mutual agreement between us. By doing this, I hope to teach my students that in life, we can achieve win-win solutions but this can only come about through respectful discussion and sincerity.
Dorothy (front, in red), with her beloved students

Dorothy (front, in red), with her beloved students

(2) Care
I’m going to illustrate this by sharing a personal story/ experience. 
In 2009, my form class was placed in a block that was really far away from the rest of the students. The class felt very unhappy with this arrangement and they thought that the school did not care for them and so that was why they were “chucked” in a corner where nobody else was.
I guess I could empathise with how they felt but I also understood the challenges and rationale of the school’s decision in classroom allocation. So in order to make them feel a little better and help them focus on what they are supposed to do (i.e. study), I suggested to the class during FTQT that we start a system where we take orders for food and I will help them buy the food for recess. (The class complained that they were always released later than the cohort and when they went down to the canteen, they had very little time to eat as they had to compete with the rest of the crowd.) And so that was what we did. Every morning, the class chairperson would pass an order form around and students would place orders for either Muslim or Western food items. They class would make payment in advance and these would then be passed to me and I would then take care of the rest. 
Because of this, we always had a chance to have meals together and that was quality time because we would share about the day that had passed. I got to understand my students better and they felt that I cared about them. We had the best rapport and up till today, we still meet up (full strength… almost) during CNY to catch up! 🙂
Bonus feature: See how teachers in Thailand build rapport with their students. Click here.

Do let us know if the strategies work for you and your students by posting your comments to this blog entry.

We would also like to hear from you the good practices you have used to build rapport with your students.

Routines & Expectations Workshop 2014


Thank you all for attending the Routines & Expectations workshop on 31st December 2013. We hope you had a great time and went away with some helpful tips to start off your new year with your new class!

Here are some photos from the workshop:

Phototastic-Routines & Expectations 1

Phototastic-Routines & Expectations 2

Following is a summary of all the strategies that all the groups have come up with during the workshop to communicate and help sustain routines and expectations:

Strategies to COMMUNICATE

Make them ‘Visual’

  • Display poster in classroom
  • Clearly spelt out (in writing because most students are visual learners)
  • Show videos
  • Class charter (jointly decided by teacher and students on first day of school)
  • Role-play
  • Use hand signals
  • Write numbers 5 4 3 2 1. Teacher will strike off a number to let his students know how long he needs to wait. Mete out consequence like standing longer until class is ready to greet in unison.
  • Lower Sec: Write timing to stay back (5, 10, 15, 20, 25min) on the board (the longer they take to greet, the longer they stay back after school). They can redeem and earn back the consequence.
  • A set of rules and expectation to be put up on class notice board
  • Creation of posters of class routines & expectations for visual impact
  • Implementation of class roster to facilitate communication of classroom duties

Make students ‘Own’ them

  • Group discussion: mutual agreement among students
  • Get them to set the rules themselves (ownership)
  • Take advantage of statements in the class charter that matches teacher’s beliefs.
  • List on the whiteboard, get students’ opinions and then modify to get consensus and agreement.
  • Rationalise with them when communicating the routines.
  • Try to get them to buy in,
  • Feedback and debrief on the importance
  • Appeal to their maturity – ‘You are old enough to know what you should or should not do.’
  • Let students have ownership of class routines and expectations.
    • Setting a clear vision e.g. “Qn: why are you here? Ans: to get As!” (Neurolinguistic strategy)

Make them ‘Clear and Transparent’ and ‘Relevant’

  • State clearly expectations on the first day
  • Link routines and expectations to what students want to achieve in the classroom.
  • First time, experiment by testing the class dynamics first, before stating expectations. Then if not as expectation, explain to them and then state your expectations.
  • Explain rationale
  • State explicitly routines and expectations

Make them in ‘Bite Sizes’

  • Give them bit by bit during teachable moments. At the start, provide basic ones first. Then add on when there are opportunities.
  • Sharing of personal stories

Make yourself the Role Model

  • Lead by example (e.g. not to be late for class)
  • Role model the way e.g. picking up broom to sweep, setting example for students

Make it a norm

  • Upper Sec: Stand in the middle, wait in the middle, look at them, wait for them to get ready to greet in unison
  • Lower Sec: Teacher say class stand first, ignore to small little greetings from individual until they know they have to greet the teacher in unison

Strategies to SUSTAIN


  • Give reminders
  • Rationalise time and again with them.
  • Give periodic reminders when routines are followed or not followed.
  • Give examples of inspiring people

Encourage and Praise

  • Give encouragement when student do it right
  • Give incentives as rewards
  • Reinforcement (both positive and negative) and consistency
  • Rewards and recognition
  • Positive reinforcement


  • Time the students to practise for routines
  • Remind them and reinforce when there’s an opportunity.
  • Will not start the class until the students meet your expectations.
  • Communicate clearly and reinforce every time.
  • Train the chairperson to reinforce class behaviour.
  • Interesting techniques e.g. spreading out of hands & legs to check on the cleanliness of the room.
  • Repeat the same action until they do it correctly.
  • Explain rationale again and again.
  • Creative ways to sustain (to prevent students from beating the system)

Aid from other sources

  • Parental support and out of classroom engagement
  • Peer pressure

Be Vigilant and Persistent

  • Leave no wrong behavior unaddressed


  • Show the students that you really care for them
  • Lead by example
  • Build relationship with students

Walk your talk

  • Carrying out the consequences
  • Be consistent with expectations



Hi colleagues, the exciting MOE ExCEL Fest is year again!

This is an annual event that celebrates and shares exciting and innovative practices in schools and MOE HQ. The Theme for MOE Excel Fest 2014 is “Valuing Every Child, Learning For Life”, and the event will be held on:  

  • Fri, 11 Apr 2014 (for MOE Staff)
  • Sat, 12 Apr 2014 (open to Public)

Click MOE ExCEL FEST 2014 to find out more!

Do also help to publicise the event to parents and students too as it is a wonderful opportunity to see and experience the many innovative projects and  latest developments in our education landscape.

Remember to mark the above dates down on your calendar!.

A Gentle But Powerful Way To Increase Learning, Motivation, And Independence


A Gentle But Powerful Way To Increase Learning, Motivation, And Independence – A New Article By Michael Linsin

A Gentle But Powerful Way To Increase Learning, Motivation, And Independence

Posted: 11 Jan 2014 09:16 AM PST


So you teach this great lesson. Your students are really into it. They’re listening and participating. Their eyes are bright and inquisitive. They pass all your checks for understanding with flying colors.

But as soon as you finish and give the signal for them to practice what they’ve learned independently, only a few get right to work.

Some students look around the room, unsure of how to begin. Some sit poised, pencil at the ready, but unmoving. Others don’t think twice. As if on cue, their hands go up in the air. Other than a predictable few, most of your students seem unable or unwilling to dig into their work.

You set them up for success, take them right to the edge of learning . . . but there they stand, frozen.

So you do what you have to do. You bustle around the room from one student to the next, reteaching what you taught to the entire class just minutes before. You remind. You review. You cajole, exhort, and praise the slightest headway.

You do for them what you know they can do for themselves. It’s exhausting, but you do it lesson after lesson and day after day because it’s the only way you know how to get them to the finish line. It’s the only way you know how to transfer their learning from concept to knowledge.

Yet still, progress is slow. While you’re working with one student, several others sit idly by, just waiting for you. And because they’re unfocused, behavior, too, suffers. It’s a stressful way to teach, but what are you to do? If you don’t help them, little or nothing will get done.

Well, not so fast.

Their problem, you see, isn’t their inability. It’s not motivation, at least not directly. If they can pass your checks for understanding, then you’ve provided everything they need to work independently. The problem is learned helplessness.

Many students have become so accustomed to receiving one-on-one support that they can no longer do for themselves. They’ve lost the spark of initiative. They’ve lost the pride of self-reliance. They’ve lost the thrill of the challenge, the perseverance of the will, and the self-starter quality they need to grow and mature as students.

Independence is a gift you give your students by gently withholding help for that which you know they can do themselves. You prepare them for success with spot-on instruction, to be sure. But then you fade into the background.

Now, you can’t just turn your back and stop helping cold turkey. Improving independence is something you must ease into through kindly encouragement. You’ll still respond to hands in the air. You’ll still approach your students. But instead of kneeling down to help, you’ll offer words of reassurance.

You can do it. I believe in you.”

You don’t need my help. I promise. Trust yourself.”

I have confidence in you.”

Don’t think so much. Just begin. You can do this.”

As the days and weeks go by and you fade further into the background, you’ll notice far fewer hands in the air and far fewer students in genuine need of support. Their work will become more self-assured and competent. Learning, motivation, and independence will increase tenfold.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll never help individual students. As both you and they grow accustomed to true independent work, you’ll be able to recognize when a student really does need assistance. But even then, you’ll only offer enough help to get them moving.

Independent practice is critical to learning, and giving too much help is often more problematic than not giving enough. In time, your students will develop tenacious independence. Instead of glancing around the room lost and perplexed, they’ll be empowered to attack their work with confidence.

After finishing up a lesson, you’ll become a ghostly presence, neither ignoring nor helping, but just watching for signs of struggle, for signs a student is in need of a soft reminder or word of encouragement.

Your job is to provide world-class, high-interest lessons and all the instruction and support your students need to succeed.

But then they take it from there.

Growing From Within 2014 – A programme on Profession​al and Personal Growth


Dear Colleagues

Growing from Within

 1.      Growing from Within is a programme that encourages teachers to take ownership of their professional and personal growth. It provides teachers with the opportunity to maximise personal capacity, harness the strengths of colleagues to achieve shared goals and to enjoy work-life harmony.

2.      The objectives of the programme are to:

a)      Renew teachers’ sense of purpose and their passion to teach;

b)      Build up a culture of care and collegial support in schools; and

c)      Impart skills for self-care to support our teachers in managing their work-life balance.

Details of Workshops

3.      The full cost of this programme is borne by the Ministry of Education.

4.      The programme comprises 2 full-day workshops and is customised for different groups of teachers according to their years of teaching experience.

5.      The workshops in February 2014 are for Teachers who have 5 or less than 5 years of teaching experience.  Details are as follows:

Dates                                    11 Feb & 19 Feb 2014



0900 -1700


Academy of Singapore Teachers

2 Malan Road

Singapore 109433

6.      Registration is via TRAISI.  If you would like further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact Ms Selena Akhbar at / 66641393 or Ms Phyllis Koh at / 66641325.

7.      Thank you.