Building rapport with our students is often an arduous journey, but it truly is one of the most important aspects of being a City Year. The road to a trusting relationship with your students will be filled with pop-culture references you may or may not understand, music you’ve never pictured yourself listening too, or just simply being there as a shoulder to cry on when things get tough.
In my experience, the first step was realizing that I had to be myself, no matter what. Kids can smell when you are trying too hard from a mile away, and they won’t react well to it; be your most authentic self, and the rest will follow. If you like rock and roll, perfect. Talk about it. They will react well to the real passion you have for something you’re interested in over you pretending to know about something they like, just to seem cool.
The second step is to always treat the students with the same respect you show everyone else. Don’t view them just as your students, but as people. Don’t talk down on them from up high; travel the same roads instead. Whether it is listening when they speak, treating their concerns with real interest, or just saying hi in the hallways, always remember that they have no reason to trust someone who doesn’t show them that same respect.
Finally, talk to your students! Find out what makes them who they are, because you’d be surprised how much you really have in common. I’ve found that cartoons, sports, and music are all good places to start, and when you hit that one thing they truly love, you’ll know. They’ll never be able to stop talking about it! In the beginning of the year a few of my students told me about how much they love a cartoon I grew up with, seven months into the year, we still talk about it every day.
If your students don’t immediately become best friends with you, don’t take it to heart. Some of the kids I have the best relationships with are the ones that didn’t like me in the beginning of the year. Always remember to meet them where they are, because life is hard, and catching someone on a bad day doesn’t mean they dislike you. It just means you might have to go about it a different way!