When you have a good rapport with someone, you look forward to meeting with them. You feel free to talk openly with them about a variety of subjects and you appreciate their thoughts and ideas, as well. Establishing a good rapport between the student and the tutor is essential in peer tutoring. Because the peer tutoring session is not intended as a traditional teacher-student relationship, but rather as a conversational dialogue, it is important that both parties are engaged in the process. Always keep in mind that a conversation needs two speakers. Both the tutor and the student need to feel free to ask questions and reflect on ideas.
Rapport is the "glue" that makes the tutor/student relationship productive. Therefore, an important aspect of the tutorial experience is that you, as a tutor, are able to 'read' your student and make him or her feel at ease in the situation. Being aware of body language - both your own and your student's - and understanding the subtext of your student's verbal responses will help make sure that both you and your student are engaged.
Begin by introducing yourself. The initial greeting and chit-chat is when you can connect with your fellow student and begin to establish a rapport which will determine the direction the session will take. This is where you begin to get acquainted with the student. Find out if this is her or his first visit. If it is, describe what to expect. If students are uncomfortable or apprehensive, try to put them at ease through conversation, but also through body language. A good acronym to remember about body language when beginning to build a rapport is LOOSER. Each letter of the word will help you remember the six points listed below.
- L: Lean in towards the student; approach the student.
- O: Offer hospitality (a handshake, a soft drink, to hang up coat).
- O: Open posture, legs not crossed, arms not crossed.
- S: Smile, nod.
- E: Eye contact.
- R: Relax.
If your student continues to be tense in spite of your efforts to help her or him feel more comfortable and establish a rapport, you might try getting her or him to relax by modeling a relaxed but attentive posture. Try mirroring the student's stance, then gradually uncross your arms and legs. It's human nature for the student to mirror you. At the same time, you need to be aware of your own body language - just as it's natural for the student to mirror you, it's also natural for you to mirror the student!