Smiling and Being Nice

Let’s face it. Interacting with teenagers all day can be a source of stress. Some days it’s all we can do to keep a smile on our faces (but we do it anyway)!

If you are feeling a bit stressed lately, here is some good news: You can teach (i.e. trick!) your brain into happiness, or at least happier thoughts. In time, those thoughts can translate into a happier you, and a happier classroom for you and your students!

“You’re never fully dressed without a smile” is the song I can remember my mom singing to me whenever I was in a less than sunshine-y mood. If you’ve ever had someone tell you to “cheer up and smile” it might not have been the most welcomed piece of advice, especially if you were in no mood to hear it. Whether you remember that song or not, it does have a universal message.

In fact, science has given us reason to believe that a smile – even a forced one – can make us feel happier and less stressed. The best part? It’s contagious!

Our Proactive Classroom Management (PCM) strategy this week is a HAPPY one. It’s called, simply, Smiling and Being Nice. And yes, sometimes we call this one, “Fake it ’till you feel it“!

No Smiling Until Christmas?

You might have heard the old teacher expression, “Don’t let them see you smile until Christmas.” This well-intentioned advice probably began to help new teachers by implying that once we “give in” and start being nice to students, all control will go out the window and chaos will ensue.

While it is true that students need to know from day one that there are rules, expectations, and consequences, running a classroom based around positive relationships will be a much more pleasant experience for all, than a classroom based around fear.

We know that building positive relationships is a core piece of reducing classroom management issues in the first place. We also know that a well-run classroom is one that is primed for high engagement and more learning! So why not flash a smile (or two)?

The positive implications of smiling and being nice in the classroom are many. As long as you are consistent, always proactive, and highly engaged with your students, you’ll be building an atmosphere of mutual respect, and you’ll be just fine.

Smiling Goes Viral

So if you smile, does the world really smile with you? Researchers who conducted this study say absolutely, yes.

Many studies have shown that when we observe a facial expression of emotion, we often mimic it. The “mirror neurons” in the brain fire up and a process of sensorimotor simulation occurs. When we see a facial expression (happy OR sad) it activates a response in our own emotional state.

This is why when we get introduced to someone who shares a big, bright smile with us, it is difficult NOT to smile back!

Students learn through modeling. If we are grumpy, they are grumpy. If we treat them nicely, they will do the same. Try smiling at a student as you ask him or her a question today in class or greet them at the door. Watch the response!

Even if they don’t physically smile (they are adolescents, after all), it’s highly likely they will at least soften up and have a positive demeanor, especially if you do it often enough. With some of our kids, your smile might be the only one they get all day.

Pass it on

If smiling and being nice isn’t something that comes naturally to you, it may take some practice. That’s why we affectionately call it “Fake it ’til you feel it.”

Smiling is universal. It works in any language. It’s also easy to pass along to others. Best of all it takes only a second, it’s FREE, and it can give you an amazing return on your investment (of a few moments a day).

P.S. Listen to this YouTube rendition of Louis Armstrong’s When You’re Smiling and think happy thoughts!  

When you’re smiling
the whole world
smiles with you,
when you’re laughing
when you’re laughing,
yes, the sun comes shining through
but when you’re crying, you bring on the rain,
so stop your sighing
and be happy again!
So keep on smiling,
Yes, keep on smiling,
and the whole world smiles with you!
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