You are nervous and you can’t afford to make the wrong move; you must make every move the right one or risk possibly destroying your reputation and thus your life. You are nervous and you can’t afford to make the wrong move; you must make every move the right one or risk possibly destroying your reputation and thus your life. In walks your teacher with a scowl or a frown or pretty much anything but a smile. Your teacher reads off a list of names with little to no emotion. He or she recites your name as if you are a number… Would you be looking forward to this class? Or would you bolt like hell to your guidance counselor to switch out? Or would you tough it out and hope the teacher lightens up later in the year? Either way, setting the tone the wrong way is dangerous and can derail a teacher before the train even attempts to leave the station. This holds true regardless of the time of year you are beginning class or teaching. Some of the worst teaching advice I have ever heard is to refrain from smiling for months on end, usually until Thanksgiving. Of course, the dates vary between Halloween and Christmas, and if the person really is a tight-ass, May or June. But is this the best advice to give to teachers?
But is this the best advice to give to teachers?
If you pictured the previous scenario, then you know, absolutely not. In fact, it might just be the worst advice for teachers ever created. Would you want that scowling person as your teacher? Personally, I wouldn’t.
The Importance of Personality…
If there is any one thing that makes a teacher successful—even more than knowledge, ability to motivate, or results on tests—it is personality. A teacher’s personality can bring a character to life, make numbers jump off graphs, and make dead presidents alive again. A teacher’s personality can move mountains.
A teacher’s personality can move mountains.
But, somewhere in the long history of teaching the advice to not smile for months was given out and unfortunately even followed. This advice is terrible because it contradicts the most basic of instincts and forces teachers to become something they are not. Once that happens, once you become something phony, you are finished. The kids know you are trying to be something you are not. In kid language, you are a loser, a fake. You do not want to be a loser. Trust me.
How To Be More Successful…
In order for you to be successful in the classroom, it is important for you to fully understand how necessary it is to be yourself. You have a unique personality. There is a reason why you are a teacher or are becoming a teacher. Don’t forget that. Don’t forget who you are. Successful teachers are successful because they understand who they are and they go with it. If you are the type of person who laughs and smiles at everything and everybody, then you must do that in the classroom. If you are the type of person who is typically serious, dry, and humorous, then you must do that in the classroom (that’s my personality by the way). If you are the type of person who never smiles, then do that in the classroom. Hopefully you can open up a little, but don’t pretend to be something you are not. Just be you and let your unique personality carry you through the lesson. Just be you and let your unique personality carry you through the lesson. You won’t click with everyone and there will be personality conflicts, but either way, don’t pretend to be something you are not. It doesn’t translate well in the classroom and is a terrible teaching strategy.
It’s Never Too Late For A Change, But…
For those of you who have followed the awful “don’t smile until _______” teaching advice or believe you are in need of a makeover, don’t fret. It is easy to lighten up and I guarantee you will see and feel a real change in the climate of your classroom. Assuming you didn’t alienate yourself too badly, students won’t be as timid to approach you in the halls and will be less afraid to speak during class. Students will begin to ask questions and will begin to feel comfortable being themselves. Students will begin to ask questions and will begin to feel comfortable being themselves. This is critical to helping your students. But, please, whatever you do, don’t make this change over night. Do it gradually over the next week and stick to it. While in class, let some things slide as long as they don’t distract too much from your lesson. Tell a joke or two. Ask the students how their weekends were and ask as if you really are interested. If you need to, take some time to think about how you can change course. Teaching is a very emotionally draining experience. I guarantee that something will pop into your mind relatively quickly. If you need more tips or have concerns, feel free to email me or comment below. A teacher’s personality is critical to how students behave and how much students learn. Don’t forget: kids are kids.
Don’t forget: kids are kids.
Just because you are an adult doesn’t mean you should be grouchy, grumpy, or phony. Occasionally we are, but if you are purposefully acting differently or find yourself being nasty day in and day out, then you need to change your mindset immediately. If not, you are jeopardizing your success, your student’s success, and quite frankly, your career. Remember, an informed teacher is a teacher who understands himself. It’s never too late to make a change.