At the end of my first year at my first K-8 school, the first grade teacher approached me as she concluded a conversation with another teacher. She said, "you, too, you know. You shouldn't smile before Christmas either."
It's an old adage, "never smile before Christmas."
The idea is that you instill fear in your students in an effort to demand respect. Me? I simply post my rules in my room. RESPECT. I ask for respect. I give respect. I expect my students to respect me, the classroom, their classmates, and themselves. I have used clip charts and other methods. It depends, to some degree (now), on the grade I am teaching. I expect respect and I give respect. The idea is that my classroom and the school in general is a place that requires respect. I believe firmly that if a student respect him or herself then that student will be able to show respect to his and her classmates.
But, I admit. I smile before Christmas.
In addition to building a culture of respect, I also believe firmly that I should build rapport with my students. To do that, I need to smile before Christmas.
You see, I am a generally happy and respectful person. If I expect the same from my students, then I should show them that part of who I am and who I strive to be.
I smile before Christmas to build rapport.
I want to know my students. I want my students to know me. I want so share music with them. I want to know what ways in which I can reach them beyond the curriculum. I want to know how to best meet their needs.
Don't smile before Christmas? Ha!
I once considered joining the United States Army. I went to a day where I learned a great deal about what I would be doing in the Army. I spent a day not smiling. At the end of it, I struggled. My friends wondered what was wrong with me. When I finally cracked a smile, it hurt. I didn't like that feeling.
I am a school teacher, not a drill sergeant. I want my students to enjoy school. I want them to develop a love for learning. I want them to want to come to school.
And so, I build respect and rapport side-by-side. In doing so, I smile, even if it is before Christmas.
If we spend only half a year being human with our students, then we miss out on something. At the very least, we miss out on half of the year. And so, I smile before Christmas.
There are days when it is a struggle. Yet, I smile.
To build that rapport means that I will smile and so will they. Perfect in my imperfections, I smile before Christmas. And, so should you. Your students, my students, our students deserve our best selves. And so, I smile. Sometimes, they smile too.