Teaching is an inherently stressful profession. It’s a lot like spinning plates. You’ll have one spinning beautifully but there’s no time to enjoy its mesmerising whirl because you have the others to attend to. Before you know it, you’re dashing maniacally up and down a line of plates on sticks desperately trying to avoid losing control – nobody wants to drop a plate and be left with the broken crockery of inadequate spinning.
I understand that all of the plates are important and that you are a very busy bee. You’re masterfully spinning: the behaviour plate; the half termly reports plate; the differentiation plate; the performance management plate… (I could go on). But if you want to be a happy teacher you need to somehow try and do it all with a smile on your face.
I don’t know when you last saw somebody actually spinning plates (have a look at Erich Brenn) but, the chances are, they were smiling. Part of that is probably the smugness of doing the practically impossible but part of it is because they’re entertainers. It’s not a new analogy but we teachers are performers too. If we want people to have confidence in us then we need to show that we have confidence in ourselves by smiling whilst we manage the very challenging role of being educators.
You might well now be asking how smiling through it all will make you a happy teacher. Good question. We know that when we’re happy we smile but does smiling make you happy? According to research the answer is yes.
In 2012 a study entitled, ‘Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Positive Facial Expression on the Stress Response’ was published in the Journal Psychological Science. A group of 170 participants were asked to complete stressful tasks whilst holding chopsticks in their mouths that either produced a Duchenne smile (think smiling eyes and mouth), a standard smile or a neutral expression. When participants were recovering from the stress they’d been put under, the smiley lot had (regardless of whether they were aware of smiling) lower heart rates, especially the Duchenne group. The study found that there were both physiological and psychological benefits to maintaining a positive facial expression during stress. Smiling is good for you.
So, if you’ve been feeling stressed – especially in the run up to exams – why not give smiling more a whirl. Even if you’re feeling like it’s the last thing in the world you want to do, smile. It might just make you a happier teacher.
See Tip #2.
See Tip #3.