It’s a popular strategy.
You notice two students talking and giggling during a lesson, for example.
So you move into their field of vision and give them “the look.”
You deliver the old evil eye.
You communicate with your piercing stare and tight lips that you dislike what they’re doing.
That they better cut it out, or else.
Which may indeed stop them from continuing to disrupt your lesson.
The problem, however, is that the strategy causes more misbehavior in the future.
Whenever you glare at students, or otherwise try to intimidate them into behaving, you create a you-against-them relationship.
You make it personal. You give the impression that not only are you angry, but you dislike them personally. After all, when someone gives a dirty look, that’s the natural conclusion—especially with children.
It causes private hurt and resentment and ultimately results in you having far less influence over their behavior choices.
When you give a “look,” you have no way of knowing whether your students understand what it means. They may not even be sure you’re looking at them or what behavior you’re referring to.
Short of saying, “Hey Emily, I gave you that look earlier because you weren’t on task,” chances are they’ll be confused.
Effective classroom management requires you to communicate clearly with your students, to tell them directly how they transgressed the rules and what will happen as a result.
(Note: In The Smart Classroom Management Plan for High School Teachers we recommend eye contact as one of two defined ways of giving a warning, which is altogether different than giving a “look.”)
When you promise to follow your classroom management plan, but then go back on your word and glare instead, you send the message that you can’t be trusted.
Furthermore, the use of intimidation, no matter how mild it seems in the moment, isn’t accountability. It doesn’t result in students taking responsibility or vowing to do better in the future.
It just makes them angry and emboldened to misbehave behind your back. A leader worth following is someone who does what they say they’re going to do.
Giving a “look” is another in a long line of strategies that can curb misbehavior in the moment, but that make classroom management more difficult down the line.
Sadly, this strategy is recommended by more than a few educational “experts.” It’s passed around as a viable solution because, by golly, it gets Robert back on track.
But now Robert can’t stand his teacher and has little motivation to push himself academically.
To create a peaceful learning environment that frees you to be the inspiring and influential teacher you were meant to be, you must be able to hold your students accountable without causing friction.
You must follow your classroom management plan as its written and give them an opportunity to take responsibility all on their own—without your dirty looks, lectures, or two cents.
In this way, you maintain your likability and influence. You safeguard your relationships. You create a world that makes sense, a world your students love being part of.
A world where you can teach without disruption.
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