Don’t forget to smile

When I am working with preservice teachers, we talk a lot about the importance of asking questions. We develop interaction patterns we want to work toward and talk about how we can use student comments to ask our next question rather than blindly plow through our list of questions. To do this well requires a tremendous amount of thought…tremendous.

What do people look like when they are thinking?

Imagine the tilted head, eyes up, scrunched up mouth, and wrinkled nose.  The face people make when they are thinking looks somewhat painful. Yet, we know that non-verbal behaviors impact student engagement. The “thinking face” is not what we are after.

So, one of the things my students and I work on during practicum is developing a habit of smiling while thinking. It feels disingenuous at first, but at some point the irony of the smile-while-engaged-in-deep-thought struck me and I’ve always been able to conjure up a smile in those frustrating moments.

Thinking is important, but don’t forget to smile.


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2 Responses to Don’t forget to smile

  1. becky1129 says:

    Hmm, I think this is something to think about. On the one hand, a teacher does want to create a welcoming environment that encourages students to feel comfortable and participate. On the other hand, it’s quite a sensitive issue for some women to be told to smile. I recognize that your suggestion isn’t intended to make teachers into a decorative ornament and, instead, is meant to get us thinking about what image we’re portraying and what nonverbal message we’re sending to students. It’s still interesting to hear this feedback during a time when women are told not to smile to be taken seriously, to be seen as an effective leader, and to have a better chance at getting promoted.


    • jerridkruse says:

      That’s an interesting point. One I am less likely to consider as a male in a male dominated society so thanks for bringing it up. I would point out that what is recommended in business and politics rarely transfers well to educational settings. This is actually one thing I had to (and continue to) work hard on regarding my own non-verbals. I do not have a resting smile, so have to actively work to have a welcoming expression on my face when I teach because I know it encourages greater participation which encourages greater learning. In the case of teaching, smiling or not has little to do with getting promoted, but a lot to do with promoting learning.


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