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Collaborative Culture: Teacher Presence

How does my presence impact my classroom?

Created By

EL Education

Topic

  • Classroom Management
  • Professional Development

Type

Online Learning

Some teachers just seem to have "it." They command the room. They hold students spellbound, willing, and ready to focus on learning. We believe that much of a teacher's presence in the classroom - the thing that students intuitively respond to - is composed of actions teachers can take that can be taught, practiced, and mastered. From tone of voice, to body language, to the physical space surrounding them, teachers can learn to manage themselves and their environment for the benefit of their students - and serve as models of self-respect and self-discipline in the process.

Created By

EL Education

Topic

  • Classroom Management
  • Professional Development

Type

Online Learning

Some teachers just seem to have "it." They command the room. They hold students spellbound, willing, and ready to focus on learning. We believe that much of a teacher's presence in the classroom - the thing that students intuitively respond to - is composed of actions teachers can take that can be taught, practiced, and mastered. From tone of voice, to body language, to the physical space surrounding them, teachers can learn to manage themselves and their environment for the benefit of their students - and serve as models of self-respect and self-discipline in the process.

When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Learning Target

I can explain how a teacher’s  presence in a classroom conveys powerful messages to students.

Practice: Body Language

Learning Target

I can explain how a teacher’s body language impacts classroom culture. 

What It Is 

  • Body language is an important form of non-verbal communication in the classroom.
  • Teachers can use body language - a look, a position, a signal - to communicate simple, positive, and respectful messages to their students without saying a single word.
  • Teachers can also help students become aware of what their own body language is saying.

What It Looks Like

A teacher’s physical presence in the classroom conveys powerful messages to students. In this video, watch how body language can set an atmosphere of safety, respect, and high expectations.

Why It Matters

  • No amount of planning or “teacher moves” can overcome the fundamental message that teacher’s posture, face, and eyes project to students.
  • A teacher who projects confidence, self-control, kindness, and excitement in learning not only will make students feel safe and ready to learn, but will also provide a daily model of what students can aspire to be.

Practice: Managing Emotions

Learning Target

I can explain how keeping my cool helps de-escalate challenging behavior.

What It Is

  • When you can handle challenge or conflict in a manner that displays self-control, you earn the respect of students and act as a model for their growth.
  • It is essential that students see you as a figure of confident authority, not one who loses control.
  • Sometimes students just lose it and their unsafe or disrespectful behavior is not a reflection on your relationship with them.
  • Just like children at home who have learned how to provoke their parents, students can learn triggers to “get to” their teachers, to get attention, or to get out bad feelings.

What It Looks Like

If a teacher is in control of her tone and emotions, students will learn to control themselves. In the video below, you will see several examples of teachers having a positive impact on their classroom culture by managing their emotions.

Why It Matters

  • Once a teacher “loses her cool,”  it can leave a big dent in the mutual trust, safety, and respect that characterizes a positive classroom climate.
  • Strong emotional reactions do not represent personal failure for student or teacher: that is just how we are wired.
  • Handling these emotions proactively and respectfully is key for teachers.

Practice: Setting Up Your Classroom Environment

Learning Target

I can explain how the physical setup of a classroom makes a powerful statement about what’s important to a teacher and her students.

What It Is 

  • The physical space of the classroom does not exist independently from the instruction and principles of learning.
  • The physical space of a classroom sends a powerful message to students about how to behave and how to learn.
  • We may not have power over the shape of our school or classroom, but we often have control of how we arrange our room and how we care for it.
  • The wall space, seating, and “learning zones,” and materials not only support instruction, but also support students to develop strong habits of scholarship, independence, and responsibility. 

What It Looks Like

We may not have much power over the shape of classroom in which we teach, but we often have some control over how we arrange our room and how we care for it. Watch the video below to see examples of classrooms where teachers have considered how the physical space is set up to maximize student learning. 

Why It Matters

  • The physical space of a classroom is integral to supporting students on their journey to self-management.
  • If the physical classroom itself works against the principles of self-management, much of your time and energy is going to be spent “fighting” the space rather than learning.
  • The act of physically interacting with one’s environment also powerfully engages students at the most basic level.
  • If students’  voices are reflected within the space, and if they have say in how the space is used, they become naturally invested in caring for it.

Dig Deeper

Synthesize & Take Action

For Teachers...

  1. Think about an upcoming lesson in your classroom. How can you use proximity in a new and different way to enhance the activity for your students?
  2. Consider writing a script of what you say for an upcoming lesson. Work to make sure your teacher voice is strong. Memorize what you want to say at key moments, as if you are rehearsing lines in a play.
  3. With a colleague, discuss what helps you keep your cool and de-escalate difficult situations. 

For School Leaders...

  1. Identify teachers who are strong models for “teacher presence.” Organize an observation to help other teachers identify positive teacher characteristics and the impact on classroom culture.
  2. In what ways can you help support teachers in developing a positive “teacher presence”?
  3. Create a classroom environment rubric to help provide teachers feedback for how they set up and use their classrooms to facilitate learning.