Five primary body language tips for teachers

Students respond to confident teachers that are in control of their classroom. Let’s look at five body language tips that you can use to convey a confident personality to your students.

The Classroom is your domain

The classroom is like your house; it is your domain. So, don’t confine yourself to one space, don’t just stand in the corner next to your desk. Move around the classroom. This is your house. Stand tall, shoulders back, and move around with confidence while students are working.

Routines

Set up routines from the very first class. Start class every day the exact same way and end class in the same way. I would suggest also having some way to calm students down, to quiet students. It can be anything as simple as raising your hand.

Teach them the rule from the very first class. Tell the students, “If I raise my hand, I want you to quiet down.” Practice it a few times with them and if they comply, reward them. If they don’t, then that becomes a teaching opportunity to practice it again and again until it becomes a routine for the students.

Many teachers also like the three-two-one and stop signal that helps a lot. Why is this so important? Because it makes teaching a process. Many teachers go into class and they don’t know what to do. They hope their classes will be good, or that their students will do the right thing. But if you see teaching as a process, that’s when you know that there’s only going to be one outcome; I’ll just follow the routines and I’ll get to my goal.

Don’t rush, slow down

Many times, a class can get frantic and then, when we as teachers get anxious, we tend to move around erratically and feel rushed. Students can instinctively detect when a teacher is nervous and acts inconsistently. As humans don’t trust someone who makes hurried movements. So, slow yourself down, breathe. Your time is valuable; you have an important message to teach. The students have to wait for you, don’t feel rushed.

Let me tell you about how I start my class. I wait until all the students are inside. I then close the door and walk to the same spot in the middle of the class. I then wait for the students to be quiet. If someone’s still talking, I will look at them until they quiet down. I then say good day and wait for their response. If perhaps only one or two students greet me back, I’ll say “Thank you, but that’s not good enough.” I’ll then tell the students that’s the worst hello I’ve had all week and give them a serious look. “Let’s try that again. Hello everyone!” Nine out of ten times, they’ll all respond and greet me properly. I do this for a few reasons. One is that I stamp my authority on the class. Secondly, I immediately challenge unwanted behavior and reinforce good behavior. So, if students do something good, I’ll praise them and say, “That’s excellent! That’s exactly what I want!” But if they don’t do something well, I’m going to ask them to repeat it. All I’m doing is to ask them to do it a different, better way. Remember, I’m not punishing the student, I’m challenging the unwanted behavior. It is important not to attack the child, but to attack the unwanted behavior.

Eye contact

Now, in the previous tip I told you that eye contact is very important. Hold eye contact with your students. This is not to intimidate them but to show confidence. As humans, we don’t want them to feel uncomfortable and hurt their feelings, so we look away.

What do the students see? They see a teacher that is uncomfortable, that’s not confident enough to hold eye contact with them. Why should they do what the teacher wants in this classroom?

You’ll find this especially among students with strong personalities. When they come into the classroom, they’ll try to hold eye contact. It’s a small thing, but it means a lot if you hold eye contact with such students until they eventually look away. Are they feeling uncomfortable with you? No, they will actually respect you more and they will feel more comfortable in the classroom because you are someone confident enough to control the environment. You are confident enough to keep eye contact with them and they’ll appreciate you authority more.

Get in their personal space

I don’t mean it in a negative sense, but to get into their proximity. To get closer to them. Walk around the classroom and be okay with being next to the students. Check up on them and ask questions. Write comments in their books.

Stand next to them while you’re talking individually to them. When working with younger kids, or when the students are sitting down, bend and get on eye-level with them when speaking directly to one or two students at a time.

When working one-on-one, make sure that the student is facing you or looking at you. Many times, I see teachers working with a problem child that looks like tearing away, refusing to look at them. In such a case you’ve got to tell the child, “Listen, I want to look at your face when I speak to you.” Especially if it’s about an important issue. 

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