To Smile or Not To Smile Until Christmas?

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Dall E


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Should teachers smile (or not) before Christmas?

This research paper unravels the old teaching myth that advises against smiling before Christmas, highlighting its impact on effective teaching …

This research will not tell many experienced teachers anything new, but it will reinforce and explain why you are successful in the classroom. Read on!

The worst advice?

Ask any teacher for one of the worst pieces of teaching advice they’ve heard, and it may be that they ‘should never smile until Christmas.’  The assumption is that to ensure good behaviour management in the classroom, you should not show empathy or emotion for the first term.

Now, anyone who has worked in a classroom will know this advice is inaccurate, but is it ‘fair’ advice to give to an early careers teacher?

We all know that behaviour management should be a priority all year round. We also know being firm and fair throughout the academic year is a more balanced approach, but what does some available research say?

Casting doubt on an old myth …

Never Smile Until Christmas? Casting Doubt on an Old MythIn ‘Casting Doubt on the Old Myth’ it is suggested that students respond positively to teachers who are warm, friendly, and approachable (Andersen and Andersen, 1987).

These qualities lead to better teacher-student relationships and higher student satisfaction. More importantly, teachers who express positivity and care through verbal and nonverbal cues are perceived as more effective!

This challenges the traditional view that strictness and emotional distance are necessary for classroom control and highlights the importance of positive emotional communication in teaching. Amen!

Secondly, how do teachers incorporate this into their practice?

Using nonverbal cues like smiling, eye contact, and a friendly tone to create a more inviting classroom atmosphere helps to embrace warmth and positive student interactions.

When teachers show genuine interest and care in students’ progress and wellbeing, this helps reduce any compromise on authority and instead, enhances the learning environment, making it more conducive to engagement and long-term academic interest.

Whilst these findings may not be new for many teachers, they should be an important reminder to all, especially for any colleagues who have lost their mojo.

Reflection questions for teachers to consider

  1.  How might your classroom environment change if you smiled more?
  2. List some nonverbal ways you can communicate warmth to your students.
  3. Can positivity impact student participation in your classroom?
  4. How could a friendly demeanour influence long-term student engagement?
  5. How can you balance warmth with maintaining classroom discipline?
  6. How might student perceptions of your subject change with a warmer approach?
  7. In what ways can you model this approach for new teachers?

Teachers who embrace warmth and positivity in their classrooms can break away from outdated myths to create a more engaging, nurturing, and effective learning environment.

It’s time to smile, not just at Christmas, but throughout the entire school year!

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