I have a very naughty dog. He was adopted from the SPCA in Singapore when I was teaching there and was about 2 years old at the time. For the first few days he was quite tentative and unsure of me, but that did not last long. By the end of the first week he would race gleefully to the door to meet me when I got home in the afternoon. He had worked out that despite chewing through a new pair of shoes, and leaving unpleasant deposits around the house, I really did like him. I may get cross with him but that was okay. He could live with that.

Do your students know that you like them?

In a previous post I talked about the importance of liking the students in your class. While this may seem obvious, we all know that it doesn’t always happen.

Yet it is probably the single most important trait of successful teaching.


Because students will know instinctively if you do not like them and nothing else you try to do will work.

When was the last time that you listened carefully to, or followed the advice of,  someone you didn’t like very much? If we adults don’t, why should our students be less discerning?

Students, and most of us if we are honest, want to know that the people who are taking care of us actually think we have value.

What is more, when students know that you like them they will be more inclined to like you. They will pay more attention to you and make more effort to please you. They will engage more with the material you provide.

No amount of PD on classroom management will be as effective as this one trait.Whether we call it relationship or rapport, we need to establish it in our classroom if we want learning to occur.

What this looks like.

This does not mean that we try to be their friend. Like parents, teachers are responsible for the students in their care and that is a very different relationship. Unlike friends, we are going to hold them accountable from time to time. We are going to ask them to do things they don’t want to do and expect them to do them anyway.

It does not mean that we try to be ‘cool’. In fact, it seems, that if we have to try to be cool, it probably means we’re not. According to our offspring, (sometimes with disgust) both Judy and I have been labelled as cool from time to time. We have also been labelled harsh, mean, scary, terrifying and downright crazy. Often simultaneously.

It does mean that we have to be honest, authentic and trustworthy. Students need to know that we will do what we say we will. That we are happy to be teaching them. That we believe them to be worth our time and our best efforts.

According to Michael Linsin from Smart Classroom Management  ‘the goal of building relationships with students isn’t familiarity.  It’s influence.’

He goes on to say that ‘influential relationships come about through your trust and likability.’

‘If your students trust you because you always do what you say you will, and they like you because you’re consistently pleasant, then powerful, behavior-influencing rapport will happen naturally and without you having to work at it.’  Linsin.

Linsin has several posts on this topic that are well worth reading. You will find links to some of them at the end of this post.

It is not a secret that I liked the older students more than the younger ones. It wasn’t that I disliked them as such but that I was more comfortable with the older ones. The little ones frightened me a bit. So it is not surprising that I had more problems engaging younger students. They probably smelled my fear.

In our next post I am going to look at specific things to do, and things to avoid, in order to build rapport with your students.

In the meantime, if you have any thoughts on teacher/student relationships we would love to hear them.

Pop on over to join the conversation on our Facebook page. 

Until next time,

Teach well


Michael Linsin links: