You’ve likely heard the oft-repeated recommendation that teachers should never smile the first three months of the school year.
The idea being that if you show kindness toward your students, they’ll see it as a weakness and take advantage of you.
Although it’s true students can and often do come to the conclusion that their teacher is a pushover, it has nothing to do with showing kindness.
You’re only a pushover if you don’t do what you say you’re going to do. The truth is, smiling is a powerful classroom management strategy you should begin using the first day of school.
It sets the proper tone.
A smile is a subtle message that kindness and politeness are expected in your classroom. It starts a slow but sure chain of smiles that pay forward throughout your new class, setting a tone conducive to learning, behaving, and getting along with classmates.
Students are nervous on the first day of school, particularly those who are shy and take time adjusting to new surroundings. A smile puts them at ease. It tells them that everything is going to be okay, that they’re right where they should be, and that their teacher is on their side.
It makes you more likeable.
Your likeability is crucial to effective classroom management and a smile is the simplest way to improve it. This doesn’t mean you have to plaster an all-day grin across your face like a beauty contestant. Just be generous with your smile. Give it away freely, with no strings attached.
It builds rapport.
A smile on the first day of school is the first step to building rapport with your students. Genuine, behavior-influencing rapport can only happen when students are drawn to you. It can never be forced upon them (or it will be repelled). A smile draws students in like bees to honey.
It makes a good first impression.
One of the problems with not smiling is that you’ll spend months trying to overcome the bad first impression you’ve given your students. It’s better to get them on your side and buying into your program right off the bat. Being warm and welcoming is a persuasive first step.
It makes your sky-high expectations palatable.
If you want impeccable behavior, then you have to ask for it, even demand it, of your students from the very beginning. And so when you smile on the first day of school, it makes your non-negotiable classroom management plan and the realization that a lot is expected go down easier.
It starts you on the right foot with parents.
Making a good first impression with parents is important. And the best way to do it is through their children. If a child comes home from school and tells her parents that she loves her new teacher and can’t wait to go back the next day, then her parents are more likely to trust you, believe in you, and give you the benefit of the doubt.
It’s a reminder.
Smiling is a reminder to savor the opportunity to teach another group of students. It reminds you to go about your first day with grace and calmness, not taking the inevitable bumps in the road too seriously.
Effective Classroom Management Starts With A Smile
Today’s students aren’t intimidated by aloofness, awkward silence, or blank-faced detachment. These old-school methods merely make them unhappy to be in your classroom and more likely than ever to engage in misbehavior.
In this day and age, to effectively manage students you need to combine a near obsessive commitment to following your classroom management plan with an equal dedication to creating a learning environment your students like and enjoy coming to every day.
And it starts on the first day of school.
It starts, with a smile.
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