The idea is simple.
If your students like you, they’ll want to please you and seek your approval. Which gives you leverage—leverage to influence behavior like almost nothing else.
And the best news is… it’s automatic. Your students will automatically behave better simply because they like you.
The prevailing wisdom says that teachers need to be grim-faced and serious or students will walk all over them.
This old way of thinking doesn’t work with today’s kids. What does work is creating leverage and rapport through, among other things, likeability.
Five Simple Ways To Be More Likeable
It isn’t difficult to become more likeable to your students. Anyone can make a few changes in how they relate to their students and see results quickly.
Commit yourself to following the list below for just one week, and behavior in your classroom will improve—both because your students will be happier to be part of your class, and because you’ll have more influence over their behavior choices.
Stress will permeate your classroom like a thick fog, creating excitability in your students and negative feelings about you. So before greeting students every day, take a deep breath and shake the tension out of your arms, legs, and shoulders. Just let it go…
You’ll be more likeable, feel more confident, and carry the calm, relaxed demeanor of a teacher who knows what he or she is doing.
Deadlines, test scores, meetings, paperwork. When you’re under the gun, stressed, or not at your best, your smile is the first thing to go. And with it goes your likeability. You can’t be influential with a furrowed brow and a frown.
A smile is the first step to creating a mutual admiration society with your students; the more you smile at them, the more they’ll smile back. And the more you’ll like each other—a little known key to exceptional classroom management.
3. Be Yourself
Too many teachers hide their true personality from students for fear of inciting misbehavior. But enjoying your students and having a good laugh doesn’t cause misbehavior. It does the opposite. It makes you more likeable and gives you more power to command the behavior you want.
Keeping your personality under lock and key stifles your charisma, making you appear dry, dull, and humorless—which is the death knell of effective teaching. It inhibits that part of you that is the most inspiring and passionate; the part that students take notice of and put their faith in.
4. Tell stories
Nothing is more effective in creating leverage and admiration than being a good storyteller. Its transformational powers can put your students into the palm of your hand.
Start with simple 3-5 minute anecdotes. Share your travel experiences, embarrassing situations, or funny moments. As you get more comfortable, branch out to include fictional stories and stories to introduce lessons and units of study. (For more info on how to become a great storyteller, see Dream Class.)
5. Have fun
Having fun as a class is a potent leverage builder, but if you join your class in the fun, if you take an active part in it, your likeability will skyrocket. The key, however, is not to attach a secondary motive. Have fun just for the sake of having fun.
Not only will your students look at you differently after a game of Giants, Wizards, and Elves, but it will provide a wonderful shot in the arm for a sleepy, restless, or unmotivated class.
How Does Your Soup Taste?
Increasing your likeability will sharpen the contrast between being a contributing member of your class, and being separated from it (time-out).
For students in a majority of classrooms, everything feels about the same—muddled together in a lukewarm bowl of flavorless soup. The class is bland, the teacher is bland, time-out is bland. What’s the difference?
One of the smart classroom management goals, on the other hand, is to create extremes for your students.
The wider you can make the gap between what it feels like to be part of the class (savory, delicious soup), and being separated from it (bitter, unappetizing soup), the more effective you’ll be.
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