by Irfan Rifai

A good rapport is  seen as the X factor of a success in communication and considered as important skill in the marketing and business – related activities . Even when it’s not bluntly stated on papers, it is very often that   business decisions are made  on  good relationship basis. Rapport, generally defined as  ‘friendly relationship’ by Merriam – Webster dictionary,   is  no rocket science .  So are  the reasons why they have been successful. Let’s put it into this simple causal logic: trust is built  upon a healthy relationship and a healthy relationship is created through good and more often, informal – friendly interactions.

In universities, where  intense interactions happening between  lecturers with their students,  rapports  between them have been researched  and correlated  with  students’ learning .  Studies found that  good report between professors to students  enhanced effective teaching and students’ learning ( Swenson, 2010). In other words, a good rapport gives positive impacts not only to students, but also to the teacher.

"sit with them, not  (always) sit in front of them"
Site visit moments breaks the boundary between an instructor with  his students: Comi among his students

In Indonesian universities, how do we see this happening? Long gone the days that instructors ( I will start using the word ‘ instructor’, from here) were seen as ones who knew everything and that there should  be boundaries between instructors and their students. Well, perhaps by keeping their distances, instructors will   stay “objective” in assessing the performance of their students . Or perhaps, by doing so, an instructor will be able to maintain the students’ respects over him. Like an old friend used to say : ” Respect is there  when  you don’t give your students  the opportunities to ridicule you. Make friends with your students? Keep your distance. You have life of your own “.  Of course,  this is an old perspective of instructor- students relationship  and my friend was just kidding when he said that. 🙂

In the 1990’s, back when I was still doing my bachelor degree, approaching or making contact to a university instructor  was very hard. They were apparently very busy and even when a schedule for a meeting was fixed, there was a always a reason or two for an instructor  to cancel the meeting. But  it was 1990’s . Now? University’s instructors are still as busy as bees. Perhaps,  still with the same responsibilities  that  my dear instructors  used to have. But then, are current university instructors  still  not approachable ?

Mentoring students' activities
Mentoring students’ activities  creates a friendly non – threatening atmosphere in and out of the class

To build a rapport for effective teaching and learning, a university instructor needs to lay down their guards and BE approachable. It does not mean that we ( now I am an instructor, too), are open for students 24/7. Being approachable means as simple as cracking a smile and positive body language that says ‘ I am human being like you too and I don’t bite’ .  Verbal communication can then follow. If they start coming to you after the class for inquiries or having extra discussion , then you’d know that they are comfortable being with you.

The second thing you might want to do is to talk to your students  in and out of the class.  What I mean by talking is T.A.L.K. The real one. Call them by names and talk about what you saw on the street or ask them how their days were and what they think on the current issues. Pick interesting topics. You’ll never guess how they would respond to you. I was often surprised to learn that they actually wanted to hear stories about my family. Well, of course  I didn’t fall into sharing too personal stuffs. 🙂

Collaborate with them!
Collaborate  with them!

The next thing that you can do is by being involved in students’ activities. Take the opportunity to become their mentors or even collaborate with them in some projects. Some of my colleagues are great actors and actresses and they have had these drama performances that they produce with students. Does the out -of- the class activity ruin the classroom discipline and the instructors’ objectivity in giving assessment? I don’t think so. At least, that’s not the way I see it. These fellow colleagues of mine are still known as Miss Discipline or Mr. Punctual among their  students.

Some of us might find it hard to actually open up ourselves. But to build a good rapport doesn’t mean that you need to be totally someone else you’re not.  Be true to yourself and express yourself honestly and genuinely  to your students.  If going to karaoke is not to your taste, why pushing yourself going into one just because students are inviting you to? If you’re the kind of type who is compassionate and caring, students would know that you are. Do not worry about expressing it. If you’re the kind of quiet but warm and friendly, students would know how to deal with you if you show it. Even if you’re the kind who disciplines a lot ( students term: killer), you can still have a very good rapport with our students when you show them the friendlier side of you.

You know a caring teacher when you see one
You know a caring teacher when you see one



Senson, E. (2010) Rapport in the Classroom. Available at: