In Rita Pierson’s infamous TED Talk, she challenges a colleague’s anti-relationship view on teaching quipping “You know, kids don’t learn from people they don’t like”. Teaching is more than standing, talking, marking and heading home. It there is no desire to make a connection, than most pupils will have no desire to work with you.
I’m not talking about trying to “hang with the pupils” or get involved in their everyday lives. First, there is a safeguarding boundary and, second, they will think your crazy (not crazy in a good way).
Instead, it’s about being you – being genuine. Finding your character and letting them see you for who you are AND that starts with a smile.
For me, its bringing to school a sense enthusiasm, excitement even if it is in a subject they may find boring. Early in my career I taught religious education. For many pupils, in particularly boys, it was the last subject they wanted to be in. I didn’t change the curriculum to fit a key group, I did not jump up and down being silly or bribe them to complete the work. No, I delivered the curriculum at a high level, my expectations were high and the standard I set was high but the difference was positivity (bring positive energy to the classroom).
Too often ,and understandingly easy, we as the adults bring our problems into the classroom. Kids kept you up all night, fight with a partner or stress makes teaching more difficult, especially if you have a full day teaching. I know it’s difficult and I can’t always get it right either but I do believe what pupils need and want to see is a smile at the start.
It’s an easy win. For some, it may have been their first smile of the day. A smile is contagious. It can make you feel good and the pupils feel even better. We have to remember that pupils are not living in a fairy tale either. Add home problems to puberty and being a pupil is pretty messed up.
Now imagine you’re having home issues, your best friends are falling out on WhatsAPP, your favourite band is breaking up and then you arrive at school because you “have to” and whilst there, you spend the day with a bunch of miserable, depressed looking adults?
Rita say that sometimes we have act and pretend. I’m not belittling the issues that we have but I see school for many of our pupils as a place that should be happy, exciting and engaging. Not us being clowns but giving pupils a positive escape which in turn will be a positive escape for us as well.
Forming good relationships with pupils can be tricky and difficult with some and not others. That’s human. But a smile transcends it all. That’s why I believe it’s the easiest, quickest way to start building good relationships and start getting pupils learn more from us.
Start with a smile.