Building Rapport: The Key to Good Classroom Management


Building rapport with students is absolutely essential to good classroom management. It is foundational to creating an optimal environment for teaching and learning. In their book Classroom Management: A Thinking and Caring Approach, Dr. Barry Bennett and Dr. Peter Smilanich present four timeless elements to building rapport in the classroom. When practiced well, these elements will transform your classroom. These elements are winning over, positive cohesive bonding, inclusiveness, and safe environment.

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Winning Over:
What the facilitator says or does to strengthen their relationship with the participant.

Integrating this element:

  • Deliberately learn and use student names
  • Allow students to share things of importance to them
  • Ask everyone to wear a name-tag
  • Use genuine affirmation
  • Use a calm, non-judgmental tone of voice
  • Smile

The benefit to winning over students is that it fosters relationship development, genuine respect, and increased cooperation.

Positive Cohesive Bonding:
The positive relationship between students and between the students and the teacher.

Integrating this element:

  • Use icebreakers to help students get to know each other
  • Frequently and deliberately plan and use positive interactive and cooperative learning strategies
  • Discuss with students the use of positive social skills in the classroom

This element helps student feel like they are valued. This makes them more likely to stay engaged.

Making sure all the participants feel like they belong.

Integrating this element:

  • Plan and use activities throughout the year that promote inclusion in the group
  • When asking questions, consider issues such as how long to wait for a response, how participants indicate their desire to respond, and how to redirect random answers
  • Make it clear that participants can fail without fear. It helps to control your response to participants who don’t understand. Use a neutral tone of voice, smile, and refrain from judgmental or sarcastic responses

One of the benefits to making students feel included is that they will feel like they are part of the group.

Safe environment:
Make sure that no one feels at risk in the classroom.

Integrating this element:

  • Never single out, humiliate, or embarrass students in public
  • Avoid fear, intimidation, humiliation, and manipulation
  • Treat students with respect
  • Allow students grace
  • Model appropriate behavior at all times
  • Don’t assume everyone knows how to behave
  • Create and post rules of expected behavior
  • Use creative question and answer strategies, like running answers by a partner before sharing with the class, to make sure participants feel safe to answer questions

The benefits of creating a safe environment include higher motivation to learn, improved engagement with content and peers, and demonstration of collaborative communication skills. Perhaps most important, participants who feel safe are willing to take risks in order to learn. A safe environment in the classroom can be fragile; it requires vigilance, consistency, and intention every day.

Integrating these elements may seem like a lot of effort to set the stage for learning, but the pay-offs can be amazing.

Classroom management; a thinking and caring approach, by Bennett, B. & Smilanich, P.


Sharon Aka is the Associate Director of the Adventist Learning Community & Associate Director for the North American Division Office of Education. In her role she supports content development and training for pastors, teachers, ministries, administrators, and believers and seekers. She has worked for the Seventh-day Adventist Church for 3 years, and continues to be excited about combining her faith and profession. Sharon is a Registered Nurse by trade, with 16 years experience as Surgical Nurse and Nurse Educator at The Scarborough Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. She also has 11 years experience as a Professor of Nursing and Professional Development Specialist for faculty at Humber Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning in Toronto, Ontario. Sharon is a PhD student at Andrews University, USA.

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