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Educational research asserts the importance of establishing rapport between teachers and their students for the sake of fostering a classroom environment that is conducive to learning. Especially given the disparities in outcomes of university students, it is imperative for educators and policy makers to look at teaching practices in the college classroom as well as policies relevant to teaching and learning in university contexts. This paper reports on an ethnographic study of a college-level academic writing class, centering on how its writing teacher seeks to establish rapport and facilitate understanding with first- and second-year undergraduate students. The findings presented in this paper highlight examples practitioners can examine to validate student knowledge and participation as well as mitigate the effects of differences in identity between teacher and student. This paper closes by inviting discussion and reflection of college-level teachers' practices in the classroom and whether they elicit engagement from students.