Saturday, 3 February 2018

Why "don't smile till Easter" is the worst piece of advice for a beginning teacher

I am sure that every beginning teacher has heard it before.  Don't smile till Easter.  No smiling means that you mean business. It demands instant respect with a hint of fear.  If you appear too human and friendly, it will be way too difficult to manage your students come term two...

While I can see the reasoning behind the mantra, I think it is a terrible piece of advice. It implies that being friendly and smiling is a weakness, and will ultimately lead to an unruly classroom. This is totally untrue.

Clear expectations and routines must be put in place from day one. However, it does not need to be done in an inhuman manner.  Teachers should firstly think about the type of learning environment they want to create.  Want it to be quiet, serious and teacher centered? Then don't smile.  Want it to be inclusive, positive and safe? Then smile!

 If you want to create a safe, inclusive and positive classroom environment, then ask yourself this: how does a unsmiling teacher help this? How will students feel safe to take risks, share ideas and be a part of the learning community if you are demonstrating one of very things that you wouldn't want in my classroom? Is an unsmiling teacher really a good role model for how they want their class to look or feel?

If you want  to create a collaborative, inclusive and positive classroom environment, then be a smiling teacher. A smile means that you are welcoming, approachable and positive. It shows that you want to be there, and that you care about your students. A smile is contagious, and exemplifies the kind of disposition you want your learners to have.  Teachers have the power to set the tone of the classroom, so a smile goes a long way in helping to create a happy classroom. It helps to ease the anxieties that come with being in an unfamiliar environment with new peers. A smile does not mean that you are weak. 

Start the year the way you intend it to continue

Instead of the old "don't smile till Easter" line, here is what that I go by: Start the year the way you intend it to continue. Just because you are not an unsmiling teacher, doesn't mean that you do not have expectations and routines that you expect to be followed. Here are my tips for doing this while still smiling!

1. Give the students ownership over how they want the classroom to run/feel.  Ask the learners what helps them learn, what doesn't, and what kind of classroom would they like to be a part of.  When I do this, recurring themes are collaboration, friendship and inclusivity.

2. Start on day one with purposeful activities. Choose activities that require the types of behaviours you need to help create your positive, inclusive and safe environment.

3. Be clear with your expectations. Set clear expectations regarding behaviour during these activities and use positive reinforcement when you notice that the good behaviours are being used.

4. Whenever student behaviour isn't good enough, stop. Even if it is only a little disruption, or students are becoming slightly less focussed. Don't be afraid to stop the class and remind them when they are not using positive behaviours. Relate this back to the reason WHY it is important (how it will help create the classroom environment they want and help them to learn).

5. SMILE. Share a smile with your learners.  Remember that you set the tone for your classroom and that a smile is contagious.

These steps will help students to understand your expectations as a teacher and will help to create a classroom environment that students (and teachers) will want to be a part of!

I'm going to finish this post off with a brilliant excerpt that was sent to the staff by our awesome AP.

...I have a sneaky suspicion that this kind of teacher would smile on day one!

1 comment:

  1. What a great post Chelsea. The world so needs more smiles and that horrid piece of 'old skul' advice has no place in a classroom. And what a great piece of encouragement from your AP to end on. You are going to have a fabulous year.

    Keep smiling :)


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