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The Role of Teacher-Student Rapport in English Learning

The findings of the study the English Café committee of our university conducted prompted me to revisit the topic “rapport between teachers and students” and reexamine how it affects English learning. The main objectives of the study were: to examine the effects of  English lounges on the development of the speaking ability of students and their attitude towards foreign teachers teaching them English; and to determine which of the two modes of delivering conversation lounges is more effective – face-to-face or online. Additionally, the paper also evaluated the significant relationships between the variables of the study, namely, students’ speaking ability, students’ attitude towards foreign teachers, educational qualification of teachers, and teachers’ length of service. The first two variables  are student-related factors, the other two are obviously teacher-related.

Results have shown that the said lounges improved both the students’ speaking ability and their attitude toward foreign teachers. And as perceived by both groups of respondents – teachers and students – both in-person and virtual methods of delivering this out-of-class learning activity are effective.

What could be considered surprising were the results for the measurement of the significant relationships between the variables of the study. Educational qualifications of teachers and their length of service were hypothesized to significantly affect both the development of students’ speaking ability and their attitude toward foreign teachers. It is but natural to presume that the more education a teacher gets and the longer they have been teaching the better they become and that translates to better learning on the part of their students. But as it turned out, teachers’ educational qualification is not correlated to the student-related variables aforementioned. Teacher’s length of service, on the other hand, is negatively correlated to the said variables. What came out to be significantly positively correlated to students’ speaking ability is their attitude toward foreign teachers. This means that when students have a positive attitude towards their teachers, the more likely that their speaking ability improves.

After estimating for correlation, a regression analysis was subsequently performed to further evaluate the relationship between those student-related variables. Results have shown that students’ attitude toward foreign teachers has a significant positive influence on their speaking ability.

Undoubtedly, a healthy student-teacher relationship is one of the foundations of effective learning not only in English but also in any subject area. Students are motivated (and very likely) to learn if they view their teachers as approachable, friendly, and caring. This positive connection between students and their teachers is encapsulated in the educational construct called “rapport between students and teachers.”  But despite its significance, only a handful of studies were conducted on the topic. Researchers claim that the reason for this is rapport, as an instructional variable, may have tremendous face validity for management education, yet from a research perspective is somewhat “tricky to understand.”1

The Collins dictionary explains that “if two people or groups have rapport, they have a good relationship in which they are able to understand each other’s ideas or feelings very well.” In the educational setting, teachers and students may affect each other either in a positive or a negative way. Teacher-student rapport indicates a positive relationship the absence of which results in a stressful academic environment. “Rapport is a harmonious teacher-student relationship which encompasses enjoyment, connection, respect, and mutual trust.”2 “Establishing friendly relations with pupils enables teachers to enhance students’ willingness to engage in the learning process.3

The positive correlation between the students’ speaking ability and their attitude towards foreign teachers in the study performed by the English Café committee of our university indicates that the more the students demonstrate a positive attitude toward their teachers, the more they improve in their speaking ability. This, as previously mentioned, was supported by the regression analysis where the values reveal that the students’ attitude towards foreign teachers positively influences their  speaking ability.

When rapport is present in the classroom, it means that existing is a level of affinity or sincere interpersonal relationship between a teacher and their students.4 Establishing rapport is one of the difficult challenges that English teachers face when teaching in other countries. 

Foreign teachers teaching in countries where English is either a second or a foreign language should not be focused solely on delivering their course contents. Like farmers, before sowing the seed, they need to plow the farmland first. Winning the trust and confidence of the students is equivalent to tilling the soil. Teaching content without establishing a positive relationship with the students first is like sowing seeds on untilled soil.

It is possible that students would feel hesitant to engage with their English teachers for  a variety of reasons. One of  those is students’ level of English. While the advanced students may feel excited to engage with their foreign teacher so they could practice their English, the beginners or lower intermediate students may feel uncomfortable or worried. A teacher’s friendly demeanor could help alleviate such discomfort and worry.

Another possible reason is the fact that their teachers are foreigners. A wall called cultural barrier immediately rises as soon as the foreign teacher enters the classroom. The student, no matter what level of English they are at, would be anxious not knowing what to expect from their foreign teachers. It is therefore a must for the teachers to set the tone right during the first meeting. It is imperative for them to ensure that their students would feel not only comfortable but confident  also to interact with them.

It may be true that teacher-student rapport is two-way traffic but the teachers, whether they like it or not, carry the burden of establishing it. “Building a positive relationship is a shared responsibility of the teacher and the students, but the teacher is in a leadership position when leading in-class learning or out-of-class learning, and assumes a greater part of that responsibility. English teachers have a bit more challenge because they are foreigners (to the native student population) and must win the trust and confidence of their students.”5

How teachers perform and treat their students is the primary means of cultivating the students’ positive attitude towards their foreign teachers.”5  What makes establishing rapport with the students  more complicated for foreign teachers is the cultural barrier that exists between them and their students. They need to plow the soil a little bit harder than their local counterparts  before sowing their seeds.  They cannot afford to just focus on delivering their course contents without attempting to break through that cultural barrier at the same time, if not first.

“The attitudes of teachers towards the students are important variables that can affect the attitude of learners as well as the quality and quantity of the learning which takes place and the linguistic outcomes for the learner.”6 In studies where students were asked to identify what they think are the qualities of an effective teacher, competence and their correlates were not the ones that came out on top. One of the said studies had the ability to develop relationships with their students and patient, caring, and kind personality ranking 1st and 2nd, respectively.7 Both had nothing to do with pedagogy but rather the attitude of the teacher.

Competence and its correlates are the ones that teachers develop through their educational qualifications and length of service. And as our  English Café committee study found out, the educational qualifications of teachers are not correlated to both the students’ speaking ability and their attitude towards foreign teachers.  Note that the negative correlation between teachers’ length of service and the student-related variables that was previously stated is significant. “This inverse relationship implies that the longer the teachers have been teaching the lesser is the possibility of students improving their speaking ability.”5 Further studies may be needed to confirm these findings. But let me just add that in my Ph.D. dissertation where teacher’s length of service and students’ performance in English were among the variables, the said constructs had the same inverse relationship.

One question teachers (of English and other subjects) need to answer at this point is – How much effort are they putting into establishing a good rapport between them and their students?. “A learner who has better interaction with his teacher may develop a positive attitude toward the target language than those who have less interaction.”8


1. Buskist, W. & Saville, B. (2001). Creating positive emotional contexts for enhancing  teaching and learning. APS Observer, 12-13.

2. Wilson, J. H., Ryan, R. G., and Pugh, J. L. (2010). Professor–student rapport scale predicts student outcomes. Teach. Psychol. 37, 246–251. doi: 10.1080/00986283.2010.510976

3. Ibarra, S. (2014). The Effect of Student-Teacher Rapport on Classroom Participation (Master’s Thesis). Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

4. Jorgenson, J. (1992). Social approaches: Communication, rapport, and the interview: A social  perspective. Communication Theory, 2, 148-156.

5. Ligaya, et al. (2021) Comparing the Effects of Face-to-Face and Online English Lounges on Students’ Speaking Ability and Attitude Toward Foreign Teachers. DOI 10.1109/CITC54365.2021.00011

6. F. D. Larsen, M. H. Long, “An Introduction to Second Language Acquisition”, New York: Pearson Education Limited, 1991.


8. A.S. Getie, M. Popescu, (2020).  Factors   affecting the attitudes  of students towards   learning English. Cogent Education, [Online] 7(1). Available: from


How Different Are Teachers From One Another

617286-Teachers-1381640520No two teachers use the same lens when they view teaching as a profession. They don’t have the same set of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values either. Like their fingerprints, their mindsets, tendencies and other personal qualities are very unlikely to be identical.

Even if  teachers are made to use a similar lens, they would still look at their job (as teachers) differently. They have perspectives, educational and personal,  that are uniquely theirs – or  some of them may have none at all.

When given the same course syllabus, we should not expect them to map out their daily lesson plans in the same manner. They would design learning activities and deliver or carry them out in ways they see fit. Some would not bother to plan anything

The work attitudes of teachers are also not the same.

There are those who are so conscious about the number of hours they are required to serve as stipulated in their contracts. You could not expect them to go overtime and do extra job – unless you give them extra pay.

Conversely,  there are teachers who are willing to go the extra mile. They assist their students beyond their assigned teaching hours and volunteer for tasks and do things not  written in their job description, expecting nothing in return.

Of course, the worst are those teachers who either come to class late or dismiss their classes earlier than expected – or both. For reasons only them know, they do not perform their assigned tasks the way they ought to. They submit required paperwork either late  or not at all.

If you are a teacher reading this, here is a question for you, “In which of the three groups do you belong? Of course, only you know. At the very least, be not the one described in the preceding paragraph.

There are teachers who are eternal fault-finders always trying to find something wrong –  either with the policies being implemented or with their colleagues and administrators.  And should they succeed in finding one, they would either whine or gossip about it, or both.

Teachers also differ in the way they treat their students.

Some teachers would set standards that are difficult to achieve while others know how to calibrate their standards to give even the slowest of learners a chance to succeed. There are teachers who have “one-size-fits-all” mentality thinking that educational processes  and approaches to teaching and learning are standard and could not be tailored to meet individual needs. Conversely, they have counterparts who understand that students have different learning styles, abilities, and personal backgrounds. They know that they must recognize the uniqueness of each student (or groups of students) and differentiate their methods and strategies as teachers. These teachers don’t believe  that standards are absolute.

Describing how teachers are different from one another could boil down to the following statements: 1. There are teachers who display both passion and compassion – they are passionate about their job and compassionate to their students; 2. There are teachers who have only one of the two; and 3. There are teachers who do not have both.

And again, if you are a teacher reading this, here is another question for you, “Which of the three statements in the paragraph above applies to you?”

If it’s the third one, you could be in the wrong profession. Think about it.

Now, let’s try to find out why teachers are not the same.

In doing so, let’s answer the following questions:

“Why do teachers view their profession (or approach teaching) differently?”

“Why do they have different work attitudes?”

“Why are some passionate with their job and compassionate to their students while the others are not?”

Before we answer those questions, it is important to note  that  there are only two ways to classify the way teachers perform – effective or ineffective; two ways to label their work attitude – good or bad; and two ways to view the way they treat their students – fairly or poorly.

What could be the reason teachers treat their students the way they do? Some teachers are perceived by their students as mean, unfair and inconsiderate. Is it because these teachers were not taught by their parents the values of kindness and fairness during their formative years? Did their experiences in life make them rude? Or were they treated in the same way by their former teachers and they are thinking that being mean, unfair, and inconsiderate to students is nothing but normal.

Teachers need to be reminded of the importance of establishing a good rapport with the students. In several studies conducted, what emerged as among the  top qualities of effective teachers as perceived by students include “the ability to develop relationships with their students” and “patient,  caring, and kind personality.”

As Andrew Johnson puts it, “Teaching starts with a relationship. Until then, you are just a dancing monkey standing up in front of your students performing tricks.”

The hardest stone that school authorities could pick up and hit their heads with is if they would decide to hire a “nonteacher” to be a teacher. There are teachers in (some, a few, or is it many?) schools who are not really teachers by profession.  They either have non-Education degrees or they did not receive any kind of teacher-training but were lucky to be hired for whatever reasons only those who hired them know.

How could a “nonteacher” be effective and passionate in a job completely alien to him/her?

Being a math wizard doesn’t give one the right to become a Math teacher. Having a perfect accent and impeccable grammar in English doesn’t make one qualified to teach English. These are things I emphasized in one of my essays about teaching It doesn’t mean that if you know it, you can teach it.

How do we expect somebody who has no training in pedagogy to be effective in preparing a lesson plan – to set objectives, to choose the strategies and methods appropriate for a lesson and the levels of students, to motivate students before delivering the lesson, and to create tests intended to measure and evaluate learning.

Do you really think that teaching is just another job?

How do we expect a “nonteacher” to understand what kind of work attitude teachers should have – to agree with what Ben Orlin said that he sees teaching as an act of self-sacrifice, as a hard path undertaken for the greater good.

So, when colleagues in the academe are not performing and behaving the way a teacher should, check their academic background. They could be “nonteachers.” And pardon me using the word “nonteacher.” It’s not in any dictionaries I checked online, except for one –  I just can’t think of a word to label professionals in the academe that were allowed to teach even if their degrees are not related to education or they did not have any training as a teacher at all.

But a more serious concern in the academe is this – Why are there teachers who were trained  to be teachers who  act as if they themselves are “nonteachers”?

The way teachers perform are dictated by the personal educational philosophy they developed when they got exposed to the many isms they studied while pursuing their education degree. Such philosophy would evolve through time as they accumulate actual teaching experiences.  Teachers also have personal belief systems that inform whatever  decision they make. Or their decisions are influenced by the colleague they surround themselves with.

The way teachers behave and talk reflect the kind of personal educational philosophy they have (or the absence of it). The way they conduct themselves as professionals depends on whether they adhere (or not) to the code of teacher professionalism.

When teachers act and speak strangely, it is possible that they don’t know that there exists a code of professionalism created so teachers would be guided accordingly. Or they chose to ignore it.

But even if let’s say teachers are not aware of the existence of such code of professionalism, common sense would tell them that they ought to be careful with whatever they say or do or else they will be charged with conduct unbecoming to a teacher.

That is if they care and it’s not only the paycheck they are after.

Remembering My Teachers

Teacher at Chalkboard

“What is done in the classroom today becomes the indelible memories of tomorrow.” – Robert Brooks

What do we remember most about our teachers? Is it their intelligence or their wit and humor?

Why do we say that we’ll never forget some of our teachers? What made it hard to erase them from our memory – the positive influences they exerted on us or the emotional wounds they may have directly or indirectly inflicted? Do they remain in our memory because of the words of encouragement they said that motivated us to excel or the mouthful they delivered with the meanest of intentions that destroyed (or almost destroyed) our self-esteem?

Do we recall the lessons our teachers taught in the class or is it the jokes they shared that we cannot forget to the point that to date those same jokes we also share with others?

Think about this – Is it our teachers’ impeccable display of mastery of the subject matter we remember about them or is it their compassion and gentleness that made us feel so comfortable in the classroom?

Being a teacher myself I often wonder what my students remember about me, or do they remember me at all. Imagine how many students I already had having been a teacher since 1988. Has anyone of them proudly announced my name when asked “Who’s your most favorite teacher?” or “Who among your teachers influenced you most positively?”

Constantly asking myself such questions makes me conscious about my performance in the class. Not that I wish to be popular among my students. Teaching is not a popularity contest. But if I get to be remembered by my former students, I wish that it is for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.

As part of my planning, each time a school term begins I make a conscious effort of remembering my former teachers. Why? My teachers in the past, aside from the subjects they taught, they directly and indirectly showed me “what to do” and “what not to do” as an educator. They contributed the pieces in the teaching-learning model that guides me as I practice pedagogy.

There are several teachers whose names were etched in my memory (although I wish to keep their identities under wraps except for some clues). There are a variety of reasons why after all these years I have not forgotten them.

During my PhD days at Bulacan State University I always looked forward to attending the classes of two professors. One of them taught me that “Whatever we don’t use will die of disuse.” and “In onion there is strength.” Yes, that’s onion… not “union.” The other one bragged that “His PEN  IS six inches long.”

I didn’t consider their brand of humor offensive although I know some of the ladies in those classes felt uncomfortable whenever those professors deliver those double-meaning sentences. I am not sure what made the students pay attention to those professors – the ideas they were expounding or the jokes they interspersed in their discussions.

Even without those double-meaning sentences those two professors were really committed to bringing humor into the classroom. A lot of times that they shared hilarious personal stories. Three classes in one day, with each class 3-hour long, in the graduate school are stressful and the best known antidote to stress is laughter.

That’s what they did…gave entertainment on the side while we go through the rigors of graduate school.

But when it comes to sense of humor, no one beats my Psychology and Political Science teacher during my first year in college. Aside from his contagious smile, he had the knack for injecting humor during discussions. I remember him making exaggerated facial expressions and movements.

As Maurice Elias suggests, “Let’s add some more enjoyment to school. We don’t need guffaws — a smile and a little levity can go a long way.”

Let me just clarify that the said professors are not just humorous – they are very intelligent educators.

I was also blessed to have three teachers (one each in High School, College and Master’s) who modeled academic excellence. Each meeting with them was always an opportunity to learn something new. Of course I learned from all of my teachers and they all contributed to my development but these three are simply a cut above the rest.

Their common denominator is they never came to class unprepared and demanded nothing less from the students. They were demanding but were very supportive. I don’t know but there was something different in the way that they taught and the way they carried out their duties as mentors.

Because of this dedication to excellence, one of them (the professor in the Master’s program who influenced me the most), became “the avoided one.” Students, as much as possible, would avoid enrolling in her classes. They were students who wanted their grades to be given to them in a silver platter. They were the ones who consider a weekly reaction paper and several book reviews too much for a graduate student. For me, that was the challenge that I wanted to undergo to test my mettle, to hone my skills. I wanted to be deserving of any degree I would be conferred with.

That was the kind of attitude inculcated upon me by my High School Biology and English 2 (and 4) teacher. She gave us assignments and projects that I considered at that time as requirements done by college students. It was difficult but it prepared me to the rigors of college life.

Then in College I had this teacher who taught Shakespeare (and his plays) rarely bringing instructional materials to the class from beginning up to the end of the semester. She did not use audio-visual materials when teaching. She would just stay seated the whole period. But when she talked it was like listening to an audio book. There was never a question from us (the students) she did not satisfactorily answer.

However, I don’t remember the said teachers only because of their brilliance. I had a lot of equally intelligent teachers but whose names I could no longer recall. But these mesdames are different. They displayed enthusiasm while teaching. I witnessed how much they loved what they were doing.

I would also not forget my Grade VI adviser. I felt so sleepy in her class one day but I was trying very hard not to fall asleep. The reason was during my Elementary days, almost every morning I needed to wake up around 4:00 AM in order to sell “pandesal” (bread) before going to school so I would have extra allowance.

One day, while she was discussing I closed my eyes but I was awake. Then one of my classmates said, “Look ma’am! Ching (that’s my nick name when I was a kid) is sleeping.” My eyelids were a bit heavy so I couldn’t open my eyes immediately when I heard a classmate say that. Then my adviser  responded, “It’s okay. Let him sleep for a few minutes. I saw him selling “pandesal” this morning.”

That for me was a display of compassion. My teacher did not get angry. She was aware of my situation and she tried to understand. Her simple act of kindness made me feel I am important. It started to develop my self-esteem.

Then I had these experiences with two of my High School teachers that reinforced my self-esteem. My English 1 teacher told me one day, “You’re performing well in the subject. Keep it up!” That was the first time I received a positive comment about my academic performance. Then my Biology and English 2 (and 4) teacher, the same one I previously mentioned, told me also that I can be a good student if I study harder. In addition, she told me that I can be a writer.

The words they said nurtured my self-esteem. The things they told me awakened a self-confidence that until now is alive and strong in me. The words they said encouraged me to excel.

Those teachers believed in me and I promised myself not to disappoint them.

In his book entitled “Self-Esteem Teacher,” Robert Brooks explained that “Teachers have a very significant, lifelong impact on all of their students. This impact involves not only the teaching of particular academic skills, but as importantly, the fostering of student self-esteem.”

What do I remember most about my teachers? What qualities did they have that made their memories persisted in my mind and continued to influence my practices as an educator?

It is their sense of humor, enthusiasm, dedication to the craft, compassion for the students, and the practice of praising students – of telling them what they are capable of.

The foregoing are the building blocks of the educational philosophy that I have embraced.

“Most children will not remember what a teacher taught as much as how he or she made them feel. Children who perceive themselves as accepted and valued will work harder and have positive feelings about their school experience.”

~ Leah Davies

Source: Remembering My Teachers

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