Building a presence in your classroom and exerting authority may not be something you’re used to. And developing a style that is authoritative but approachable may seem like a challenging prospect.
‘While you should be firm, it’s important not to be distant, a bit of warmth doesn’t go amiss,’ explains Julian Stanley, Chief Executive of the Teacher Support Network.
To achieve this balance you will have developed your own techniques and classroom strategies but here are a few that our teachers’ network has recommended.
Welcome your pupils
Sounds simple enough and it is, but by greeting students at the door you are immediately establishing your authority. This can be taken a step further by lining students up outside the classroom and personally welcoming each one as they enter the class.
Your use of eye contact and positive body language such as smiling and engaging students in more social discussion helps to build rapport and prepare students for interaction and discursive activity. This will also enable you to pick out students who may not be in a ready-to-learn state and give you an opportunity to work through any behavioural issues before the lesson has begun.
Making your voice heard
Your voice is a powerful tool; used appropriately it can encourage positive behaviour and infuse energy into the class.
Many teachers will have received voice coaching as part of their teacher training. If you haven’t, this is definitely recommended. Take Britain’s Got Talent, for example − week in, week out we see talented young people singing falsetto, but rarely does this just happen. Most, if not all, will have had training and guidance on how to control their voice’s pitch. A teacher is no different, which is why voice coaching can be an invaluable investment.
Walking through most school hallways you will have heard a teacher shouting at a misbehaving student at one point or another. Often, it is a natural reaction to try and exert authority by raising your voice, but in many ways this has a contradictory effect, undermining you as a teacher and damaging the relationships formed with students.
For many teachers, lowering your voice or even stopping speaking can have more of an effect. Varying the pitch, intonation and pace of your voice can also be used to engage students, spark enthusiasm and generate excitement.
As with actors and performers, teachers need their voice – so take care of it. I know it’s hard but try and swap a coffee or tea for a glass of water that you can sip throughout your lessons.
‘Actions speak louder than words.’ Although this may not always be the case, young people are intuitive and will pick up signals your body sends out. Crossing your arms, frowning or shutting your notepad quickly can send out negative or defensive messages. And this can lead your class to respond in a similarly negative way.
Projecting a confident and positive aura by adopting an open and relaxed posture can exude confidence even when you’re feeling tense.
These are just a few simple techniques to take control over your classroom. Why not use teacher observations as an opportunity to assess your presence, to ensure your students are getting equal time with you and to identify areas where you could improve?
Modelling is also a great way to enhance or widen your teaching styles; perhaps sit in on colleague’s lessons or try using high-quality tutor-led lesson videos to see how to energise your classroom delivery and to adapt your style to engage less focused students.
(Courtesy of Visual Culture blog)