Our Schools, Our Kids, Our Future
SMILE . . .
Many of us smile much of the day. Some of us rarely crack a smile. Most of us do not think about the effect a smile can have on another person or ourselves. I am reminded with a new baby in the family how important a smile can be. As our grandchild grows, I have seen how a smile is one of the first actions that he reacted to. At around 3 months old, our grandson began smiling and cooing when we smiled at him. If we looked sad or put out our bottom lip, he would start to cry. If facial expressions can have that effect on one small child, think what it could do at school or in the work place.
A few years ago, a book entitled, Don’t Smile Until Christmas by Kevin Ryan was published. This was written as well-meaning advice to get a handle on classroom discipline when beginning a new year. The problem with me trying to follow this advice, it was very far from my personality. In keeping control of the classroom, I found it worked better for me to be firm, yet smile and develop relationships with the students. In 15 years of teaching, I probably didn’t even send five students to the office (off the top of my head, I only remember sending one), so why was I trying to change my classroom management style? Plus kids are so darn funny, you can’t help but laugh or at least smile when one of them says or does something hilarious. I would try to add humor to the classroom most days to make learning English not quite so gruesome for the many young adults who did not like to read and/or write.
Another problem with the advice to not smile in the classroom is that it goes against most all research that has been done on smiling. Smiles in the workplace have been proven to raise morale. If that is the case, why do we not smile at our students and children all the time? If we want the morale in a classroom to increase or children to enjoy school more, the least expensive way is to smile. (It doesn’t cost thousands of dollars in professional development to learn that strategy.) If we are out to change behaviors, is there a reason that we can’t try it first with gentleness and a smile? Now I admit, some children are rather adamant about not changing behaviors at home or school which is when it calls for more serious consequences, but the majority of our young adults only need a mild reminder.
It is a shame that I had to have a grandchild to remember how important a smile can be. I enjoyed my children while they were growing up, but had I smiled more our house would have been more pleasant, including during homework time. I thought I had to be so serious to make sure that they behaved in a manner in which I would be proud. While I was a campus administrator, I smiled much and laughed often with the children and the teachers. The morale on that campus grew and led to teachers happily working together on the serious business of educating our students. Change didn’t occur overnight, but it was a lot more fun getting there.
The holidays are an extremely stressful time for many. We are so determined about trying to find the right gifts, completing holiday cooking, and attending the many activities that we often don’t take the time to smile. During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, give a stranger a friendly smile and see what a difference it can make. It is contagious! Not only does it make others feel better and relieve some of the stress, you also feel uplifted when you smile. Your family, school and/or workplace will all be better places with your smile.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! May your holidays be full of joy and may you smile much during 2014!