Smile, You’re A Teacher!

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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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Should you smile before Christmas?

“Don’t smile until Christmas!”


Newly qualified teachers will often hear this piece of advice and they should just ignore it because it is total nonsense. No really it is absolute garbage.

If you smile on your first day with a class this most definitely isn’t a sign of weakness and pupils will not walk all over you for the rest of the year. You don’t need to be all alpha-male either and act all tough fearing that pupils will see you as a wishy-washy pushover.

What century are we in again? Happiness is the new work ethic and that means smiling.

12 reasons To Smile

1. Security

Children feel safe and comfortable with a teacher who flashes their gnashes. Who wants a Miss Trunchball intimidating them? Many children feel extremely anxious on their first day back to school so why would you want to inspire fear in them? Children come to school to feel secure in their surroundings and their class teacher will make or break their happiness.

2. Wellbeing

Smiling is important to wellbeing. It’s good for you and it’s good for children. If we spend half the day frowning, grumbling, snarling and being menacing then expect half the class to be nervous of you and the other 50% disliking you. A smile triggers a smile and delivers the feel-good factor: every class should be full of endorphins. Teachers who smile are happier people: it’s good for your heart and relieves a lot of tension and stress.

3. Mood-maker

A smile can relax children so this helps them learn far more effectively and behave better too. Children equate smiling with kindness, humour and positivity so plenty of smiles can dramatically alter their mindset, outlook, approach and perspective. Smiling can lift bad moods with very little effort and smiling tends to lead to laughter – classes full of laughter are great places to be.

4. Bonds

Scowls and growls bulldoze and damage whereas smiles are great for building rapport and nourishing relationships. Most people warm to a smile and are drawn into sharing more of themselves. Smiles are superb for learning.

5. Impress

Smiles impress and make positive impressions. Don’t you want to make a fabulous first impression with your new classes so that children want to be in your class? Smiling is memorable and long-lasting. When children go home and are asked, “What’s your teacher like?” then “smiley” is better than “scary”.

6. Friendly

Children want nice teachers who support them – there’s no rocket science behind this. But showing your pearly whites is crucial because it makes you a teacher liked by children and trusted. Smiles build trust, respect and motivation.

7. Parents

Many parents can be intimidated by their child’s teacher often because of their own poor relationships with teachers when they were at school. When children speak positively of you as being a warm, friendly and beaming teacher then this disrupts their thinking – they realise not all teachers are detached dragons and demon dictators.

8. Defuse

Smiles are pretty good to diffuse a situation and they can disarm in an instant. They are like bomb disposal experts adept at always cutting the right wire and can avoid explosive situations coming about in the first place.

Children come to school to learn, to have fun, to belong and feel wanted: it’s a place where they can smile a lot too and they should expect to encounter plenty of them too throughout the day.

9. Community

Smiling is good for the school as a whole. Smiling is also a professional response to display in stressful situations. Children don’t need to see our stresses and strains – what they do need to see is that we can handle situations with a smile and good humour. This makes a positive school community.

 10. Advantage

Smiling gives us the edge we need to enjoy our day and when done every day we all benefit more. Shawn Achor in The Happiness Advantage says that smiling helps our brains to create happiness loops that promotes positive thinking.

11. Productivity

It’s been shown that happy workforces are more productive workforces and there is every reason to believe this applies to schools too. Smiles produce positive emotions and can feed motivation whereas negative emotions can drain effort and engagement.

12. Creativity

Smiling can help us be more creative. If we are happier in our environment then we are far more likely to be inspired. Smiling can help us solve problems, think more freely and make better decisions.

All Smiles

Classroom management is multi-faceted but that doesn’t mean it has to be complex.

We can start with a smile, a real one though. You can try fake smiles but these are easy to spot because the eyes don’t smile in unison. Smiles have to be genuine and despite all the pressures, there is plenty to smile about when teaching the greatest human beings on earth: children.

It’s worth remembering that for some children, there isn’t much in their lives to smile about and they need every drop of positivity they can get.

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