Believe it or not, I was actually given the advice “Don’t smile until Easter” by a colleague in one of my very first teaching jobs. And … I took that advice.
It was a tough school with challenging behaviours to navigate and I adopted a simple philosophy that I wouldn’t be walked over. I was miserable – and I didn’t make it to Easter.
I decided to flip everything. I focused on connection, relationships and positive feelings. My students and I talked, we cooked, we watched movies and we played games until we were thoroughly enjoying each other’s company.
I assumed now was the perfect time to fold the learning expectations back in – and I was wrong once more.
“What are we doing this for?!”
“It’s Monday, we’re supposed to be playing basketball!”
“Where’s the nice Mr Voigt gone? This one’s an arsehole!”
You see, I’d not yet learned that high quality classroom instruction aren’t about mere rules and expectations. Nor are they about being nice.
They’re about the combination of the two. And for me, that combination has a distinct focus on achievement.
As your students hit the classroom for 2021, don’t fall for having students waste a lesson colouring in the front page of their maths books. Instead, get some maths done, crouch quietly beside the student who might be a challenge and whisper excitedly “That’s some serious maths there. I was hoping you’d be in my class. We’re gonna have such a good year together.”