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It's Okay to Let Them See You Smile

Posted by on in Student Engagement
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One of my favorite sounds is laughter. With all of the complaining, negativity, and hostility in education today, laughter truly is one of the most underrated and underused tools we have. I love to hear my students laugh, and they like to make me laugh. Actually, there’s a lot of laughing in Room 128, and that’s exactly what I want.

Studies how shown that the quickest way to improve morale and increase student motivation in the classroom is for the teacher to smile more, and I believe the same is true for the home. I’m amazed that one small action can change the culture of the classroom. And just think, if a smile can do all of this, what can laughter do? In my classroom, we have Funny Fridays and watch a couple of funny video clips most Fridays at the beginning of class. While some would argue that this is a waste of time, I believe it builds a culture and climate in my class that helps students feel relaxed and at home which ultimately translates to better student performance. Aside from performance, smiling and laughing are traits that we desire in students (and adults) and often go hand in hand with many positive character qualities.

Having said that, I want to leave you with a couple of essays that show how the ability to laugh and smile even at oneself has manifested itself in my students. Read these two concluding paragraphs from an essay on a modern poem “If I Could Tell You.” (These essays are used with permission. My students actually think it’s nerdy and cool that I have a blog and are thrilled to be featured).



The first student ran out of time while writing, and the second student just had no idea what the poem meant. Now, before you are quick to judge, let me just say that AP Lit is no joke. These high school kids get college credit and work harder than you can even imagine. In order to prepare for the AP test, students on this day wrote two essays in 90 minutes on a passage and poem they had never seen before. This poem was particularly difficult, and students had to write on how the structure of the villanelle supported the overall theme of the poem – not an easy essay. And while some of the students struggled, I loved that these two went to humor as opposed to tears.

The reality of AP Lit and life in general is that we are on a journey. We will not make an A on every essay. We will not gracefully navigate our way through every situation in life. However, we have a choice of how we react to failures and shortcomings. And while I’m not suggesting that we completely make a joke of everything, sometimes we just need to relax and give ourselves permission to not take life (or AP Lit) so seriously because there’s a lot more of the class (even though we are on the countdown now) and the journey of life in front of us.

So what about your class? Is there a good balance of smiling and laughing with hard work? How often do you personally smile or laugh? 

Make a conscious effort to smile more for one day this week. (Not the creepy Jack Nicholas smile though – that creates a type of culture you don’t want).


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I am a caffeinated educator with the incredible privilege of teaching high school English and serving as a school leader. This is my seventh year at Northgate High School on the south side of Atlanta where teach AP Literature and also lower level American literature. Having taught in public, private, and home schooled, I am a believer in the system and striving to be a positive influence among both students and educators. At the end of the day, I am glad to settle down to watching something on Netflix with my husband and three kids.

  • Guest
    Karen Stone Monday, 06 April 2015

    Yippee! Let's do this in every classroom. I bet they can't wait till Funny Friday and love coming to your class. Play is such an important part of learning and requires so many emotionally intelligent skills. At all my seminars, I ask that we bring play and laughter back into every classroom!

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Guest Thursday, 27 October 2016