When you started teaching, did the kindhearted veterans around you offer advice on how to run your classroom? Everyone seemed to have some idea for me before I brought my first class into the room way back when. I didn’t have much of a compass back then, hadn’t refined my philosophy to what it is today, didn’t realize how some things should and shouldn’t be. So I generously accepted the advice of most everyone who offered it (with the exception of accepting the previous teachers’ appraisals of the kids without ever having met them – I was right on that from the start!).
What I thought was one of the best pieces of advice actually turned out to be one of the worst: “Don’t smile until Christmas”.
I figured, “Hey, these kids need to know I’m boss, anyway. That sounds pretty good. They don’t need to have fun. They need to do everything I say without questioning!”
Well, I came to understand that you catch more flies with honey and that enforced complacency is quite a different – and inferior – thing than that blissful state when kids actually buy what you’re selling and willingly go along, not because you want them to, but because they want to. Novel, ain’t it?
I also think of it this way. Kids want to please their teachers (especially those who have no one pleased with them at home). They’re just looking for approval and validation of their greatness – not to be made to feel miserable and worthless. Why shouldn’t I accept kids from the get-go with a ready smile – maybe the only smile they get all day? Isn’t it enough for them to be them? Do they have to fit their round pegs into my square holes to please me or can they just be pleasing as they are?
Those are easy questions to answer, I think.
And so, when someone suggests you don’t smile until Christmas, I say, “Smile like the sun from the first minute on day one!”