“Don’t smile until Christmas”


I remember hearing that advice as a new teacher. The logic behind it was simple—it is easier to loosen up classroom management routines and discipline than to tighten them.

If you didn’t think about it too much it made sense.

But unsmiling teachers give the appearance that they don’t like teaching and don’t even like their students.

And students don’t learn as well from teachers who seem not to like their jobs nor them.

So “Don’t smile until Christmas” is not advice I would want given to a new teacher.

What “truisms” from early in your career turned out not to be so true? And, conversely, what advice were you given that made a positive difference in your work as a teacher or administrator?

2 Responses to ““Don’t smile until Christmas””

  1. 1 Mike Fenchel March 2, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    On the morning when I reported for my first high school assistant principal job, I found the retiring assistant principal cleaning out his desk.

    We only spoke for a short while, so our “overlap time” amounted to about five minutes. But, he did leave me with these “words of wisdom” as his parting advice to me, “Just remember this and you’ll do just fine. They’re guilty until they prove themselves innocent”

    I watched a lot of Perry Mason while growing up and I always thought it was just the opposite. A person was innocent until proven guilty.To make things even stranger, I later found in his nearly empty desk, a roll of Tums, a small tin of aspirin, and best of all, an unspent bullet. I guess I was now prepared for any situation.

    Several years later, when I received my first principalship, I left those same three items, fortunately unused, in my empty desk for my replacement. Although, this time, I added the full story of how I came upon them and the “words of advice” I received with them.

    I also added my own thoughts on dealing with discipline issues. I told my new replacement that, regardless of what the student was being accused of or what they had done, I treated them with respect and dignity. I believed in due process and that they were entitled to have their say or to tell their version of what had occurred. Except in rare cases, when a decision had to be made immediately, I would try to take the time to investigate the student’s story before rendering a decision.

    I wanted the student to leave my office with the feeling that, regardless of the outcome, they had been treated fairly and understood why the final decision was what it was.

    The approach didn’t always work, but I often received a, “Thank you” as the student left the office.


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