One small tweak flipped a secret switch in my classroom and now I have rapport with my students. (This is not clickbait, it really was such a small tweak!)

Maya Bialik
2 min readSep 20, 2023

You may have heard or noticed of the trick teachers sometimes use to get a certain behavior without yelling at kids to do the behavior. It’s calling out those already doing the behavior. Like, “Thank you Sam, for sitting quietly and looking at me”. This works way better than it should, first of all. Students who don’t care about being called out for bad behavior suddenly bolt up in their chairs, widen their eyes, and do the good behavior, waiting for their public praise.

That’s great, as a highly effective way to manage the classroom. But there has been a surprise extra bonus, and this one is one of the absolute most important things that determines the vibe of the class and the rapport I have built with the students.

About two weeks in, the second Friday, the kids were antsy. I could tell that they were really trying, but just could not sit in their seats and stay focused. Previous years I would have gotten a little annoyed and maybe gotten more stern to get them to behave. And they would have been slightly annoyed, slightly oblivious, and slightly sad to have deserved the stern tone. But this year, because of the rapport we’d built, both the students and I were … just slightly amused!

I realized in that moment that it’s because I had been steadily having small positive interactions with each student, in place of having small negative interactions with each student, that we all had a much more positive general expectation of the class. So when things didn’t go as well, there was a lot less tension and a lot more patience, from both sides. They were also more clear on the expectations and could tell how short they were falling, despite trying their best. When tension in the classroom is low, expectations are high, and we feel like we’re on the same page, the mismatch isn’t annoying, it’s … just slightly amusing!

I knew of this tactic for a long time, along with many others, and I had seen it work very well, but I had just mixed it in with the rest of my repertoire up to this point. This year I decided to focus on the two strategies that work (this one and “can I have your attention in 5… 4… 3… 2… annnnd 1”). I made that decision just based on the idea that they were effective. But they have ended up being so much more! I haven’t seen it written out like this because if I had known, I would have done this earlier, so I figured I’d write this very short post! Hope you enjoyed.

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Maya Bialik

Creator of questionwell.ai. Teacher, author, and speaker making learning meaningful and making teaching more enjoyable.