My first year of teaching was 1991. I was fresh out of college and excited to make a difference in the lives of students.
I may have not known a lot about teaching that first year, but I did have a couple of things going for me: I was extremely passionate about being a teacher, and I knew bad advice when I heard it.
I remember being told by a veteran teacher, “Don’t let them see you smile until after Christmas.”
I know the intention was meant well and to be helpful. Apparently this was to help me with my classroom management. The teacher cautioned me about “having fun” in class with the students. Whoa!
I looked really young and there really wasn’t much of an age difference with the students, and the teacher thought if I was tough in the class the students would behave.
Luckily, I knew this wasn’t going to work for me. I liked to have fun and wanted the students to like my class. Through conversations, journal entries, writing assignments, and even surveys, I learned the interests of my students and created a good rapport with the kids. They liked coming to my class, and I believe because they liked the class, they worked hard, had some fun, and learned a lot.
I had a lot to learn as a teacher, but ‘not smiling’ to Christmas was really bad advice for me that I’m glad I did not follow.
More often than not, I found that my students mirrored my attitude in my class. How I acted in the classroom really set the tone for most of the class. My smiles were most often mirrored by smiles. If I was excited with a lesson, so seemingly was the majority of my class. My attitude was seemingly contagious.
Not only was ‘not smiling until Christmas’ bad advice, I believe smiling is probably one of the best things a teacher can do:
- Smiling can improve attendance. Smiling welcomes student to the building, your classroom, and to the day.
- Smiling can increase participation. “I can trust this teacher. This teacher is kind and nonjudgmental.
- Smiling can improve performance. I like this class; I want to work hard in here.
- Smiling makes you a better teacher. Smiling is the first step to being a kind teacher, and if you can be nothing else as a teacher, be kind. Being kind is the most important quality a teacher can possess.
- Smiling can reduce discipline problems. Smiling is contagious and sets the tone for a positive learning environment. Smiling in times of discipline says, “this is not personal; these are simply the rules we must follow.”
- Smiling can increase rapport and engagement.
- Smiling has many health benefits including reducing stress and anxiety.
- Smiling builds self esteem.
I have received a lot of recognition for my work as a teacher, and I am thankful for that, but the most meaningful measure of my work is when I reconnect with a former student and they thank me for my kindness in how I worked with them. That is what I am most proud.
The best advice I can offer any educator is: be kind. Be kind to your students, your colleagues, your administrators, and to yourself. Your smile, attitude and kindness is contagious and a gift to all. And… they’re free.
Wishing all listeners of the Wired Educator Podcast and readers of the Wired Educator Blog, Happy Holidays.
Kelly Croy is an author, speaker and educator. If you’d like to learn more about Kelly, or invite him to your school or conference to speak please send him an email. • Listen to Kelly’s other podcast, The Future Focused Podcast and subscribe. • Subscribe to The Wired Educator Podcast with over 115 episodes of interviews and professional development. • Visit Kelly’s website at www.KellyCroy.com. • Looking for a dynamic speaker for your school’s opening day? • Consider Kelly Croy at www.KellyCroy.com • Order Kelly’s book, Along Came a Leader for a school book study or your personal library. • Follow Kelly Croy on Facebook. • Follow Kelly Croy on Twitter. • Follow Kelly Croy on Instagram