Intellectual Excitement and Intellectual Rapport

Do you have the IE and IR factor?

Classroom management is one of the most challenging aspects of teaching for new and experienced teachers.

Most teachers have their own approach but there are two things you are going to need this term and every term: IE and IR.

Your teaching style is a highly influential factor in the way children learn. This is the vital human connection you bring to the class and the intellectual excitement (IE) you can generate and the intellectual rapport (IR) you have.

Effective teaching partly comes down to the amount of passion you are prepared to inject into your lessons. Intellectual excitement means teaching with energy and enthusiasm and presenting content in a clear and engaging way so that it is memorable. If you have high IE then children are going to sit up and notice and they are more likley to see connections between ideas and experience excitement.

If the IE is low then children can get easily bored, frustrated and confused because without this upbeat and high energy teaching, material is stale.

The relationships we have with children are key and understanding the power of positive interpersonal dynamics is crucial. If we have trusting, respectful relationships with built-in humour then children will feel cared for and motivated to do their best. As Akabari et al (2010) note,

It is often believed that an instructor demonstrating low IR is described as cold, distant, highly controlling, or unpredictable. Consequently, students are characteristically afraid and uneasy, are motivated by fear, and believe that the teacher actively dislikes them.

The bottom-line is ‘know your students’ and build trusing relationships with them at every opportunity to bring about positive emotions, a willingness to learn and do well. The secret ingredient is positive relationships because these create layers of trust. As Stephen Brookfield (1990) says,

Trust between teachers and students is the affective glue binding educational relationships together. Not trusting teachers has several consequences for students. They are unwilling to submit themselves to the perilous uncertainties of new learning. They avoid risk. They keep their most deeply felt concerns private. They view with cynical reserve the exhortations and instructions of teachers. The more profound and meaningful the learning is to students, the more they need to be able to trust their teachers.

Rapport isn’t something that happens in a day but is what Buskist and Saville (2001) call “an emergent property of teaching”. Their advice for building rapport includes:

  • Learn to call your students by name
  • Learn something about your students’ interests, hobbies, and aspirations
  • Get online – use e-mail to increase accessibility to your students
  • Interact more, lecture less – emphasise active learning.
  • Reward student comments and questions with verbal praise
  • Be enthusiastic about teaching and passionate about your subject matter
  • Lighten up – crack a joke now and then
  • Be humble and, when appropriate, self-deprecating
  • Make eye contact with each student
  • Be respectful

IE and IR are crucial but even if you teach with all the passion and excitement in the world, it is the authentic personal connections that create the conditions for this energy to really flourish and strut its stuff.


Akbari, R. & Karimi Allvar, N. (2010). L2 teacher characteristics as predictors of students‟ academic achievement. The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language, TESL-EJ, 13(4), 1-22.

Lowman, J. (1995). Mastering the techniques of teaching (2nd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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