If you ask a child, "Why do you like Ms. Jones?" the most common answer is usually "Because she's nice". Other qualities in teachers are also valued by students, but being nice always seems to prevail. Niceness is something that we all seem to understand intrinsically rather than by definition.
Even if we cannot specifically define what it is to be nice, we know that it is the opposite of being mean. We all have been hurt by mean words or acts; we avoid or fear people that have the potential to be mean. When the actions of another person makes us feel positive and happy, we describe that feeling as nice. Is there an educational value to being a nice teacher?
QUALITIES OF "NICE"
These are some of the qualities of being nice:
Compassion is an emotional response to seeing pain or suffering in others. The suffering could be something as simple as a student feeling embarrassed after mispronouncing a word. We feel the embarrassment with them.
is even deeper. It is when we try to put ourselves in another person's position even if we do not feel or understand their suffering.
Generosity is giving of ourselves to others without expecting anything in return.
Fairness is trying to make sure that nobody is wronged and that everybody is treated equally. If one or two students are misbehaving, it is not fair to punish the whole class.
Kindness also seems to encompass all of these qualities, so why concentrate on "nice" instead of "kind"?
Kindness is the state of achieving these qualities. Being nice is the attempt to achieve all of these factors in social settings such as the classroom. The attempt is the key because we cannot be perfect in our behavior. Students will appreciate our sincere attempt to uphold all of the qualities of being nice.
Many teachers still feel that being nice will result in being perceived as weak and that the students will challenge this weakness. However, you can be strict and still be nice, you can be challenging and still be nice, and you can be a leader and still be nice. Being nice gives you strength.
A contrasting quality to nice seems to be "cool". If a person is cool, they tend to ignore the effort to encompass all of the components of "nice". The recent trend is that being nice can be cool. In the last few years, the popular sentiment about being cool has been changing from the idea of being distant and uncaring, to the idea of being more aware of other person's feelings and needs. Perhaps "cool" is changing into "warm" :)
Another reason that teachers may avoid being nice is that they are unable to deal with their own emotions and the emotions of their students. A classroom full of compassion, empathy, generosity, fairness, and kindness will perhaps encourage students to reveal their deep feelings and sometimes very personal issues. Teachers may feel that these elements should be left at home for the parents to deal with. However, some students spend more time with their teachers at school than with their parents at home. Students cannot be expected to "hold in" their emotions and act like a different person for several hours a day, this is not natural.
Nice teachers have to teach "emotional intelligence" and social skills. This may not be part of the curriculum, but it is a good investment because it creates a classroom atmosphere that makes learning a more efficient process. Teachers can also lead by example by dealing with frustration, anger, sadness, and other strong emotions in a rational and kind manner.
The most cynical amongst us will point out that being nice is essentially self-serving. A nice teacher will get affection from their students and praise from their peers. They will ultimately be rewarded so they are not truly "nice", they are just looking for positive reactions.
Even if being nice was somehow self-serving, it would still benefit the students -- the end result would still be positive. Emotional intelligence and social skills are important assets that students will carry into their adulthood.
WHY BE NICE IN THE CLASSROOM?
The end product of being nice in the classroom is very clear. A nice teacher reduces anxiety and fear in the classroom which makes for a better learning environment. If children feel safe under the protection of their teacher's niceness, they will "risk" more interaction with others and they will "risk'" failure when challenged with difficult tasks or activities.
A nice teacher also creates a classroom atmosphere where children are not afraid to be themselves and are therefore more motivated to express what they are thinking or feeling. They will have an opportunity to contribute in their own personal way.
If a teacher is nice to their students, they will be nice in return. They will also be nice to their peers. This will help with classroom and behavior management.
Teachers are in a position of power. An unkind word is enough to destroy the confidence of a child for a long time. Being in a position of power also puts the teacher in a position of absolute responsibility. Children deserve adults to treat them nicely. This is part of the basic rights that a child must be given.
A mean teacher is feared and unfortunately fear is often perceived as respect. Freedom from fear is one of the fundamental human rights. Other basic children's rights include "freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of choice, and ownership over one's body". Research has determined that these rights help to make a child grows up healthy and happy. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children's_rights]
ARE YOU A NICE TEACHER?
Most teachers are nice and most teachers are doing the right things in the classroom. The following is a list of areas that we should consider exploring as nice teachers:
1. Getting Personal: Do you greet each of your students by name? Do you try to make a connection with each child by knowing something special about them? Do you tell stories about your own life in order to connect with your students? Do you incorporate your students' personal interests in your lessons?
2. Communication: Can your students disagree with you or what you are teaching? Do you allow your students time to talk to each other? Do you use group or pair activities that will provide you with the time to talk to each student individually? Do you give time to your students to express how they feel about life? Do you have a "welcome back" routine for a student who has been absent from the classroom?
3. Choice: Do you give your students a choice of what activity to do next? Are your students involved in the process of choosing what they will learn and how they would like to learn it? Do your students have a voice in their own education?
4. Community: Do your students feel like they belong to a community? Is your classroom a safe place where children want to come "home" to? Do you create a sense of community with fundraising projects that will benefit the whole school or the larger community? Do you discuss social justice and equality issues?
5. Fun and Joy: How often do you smile in the classroom? Is there a sense of "joy" in your classroom? Plenty of good natured laughter and expressions of silly fun? Games and celebrations? Can you feel the fun and the joy of life along with your students?
6. Achievement: Do your students feel like each one of them is achieving something by being in school? Do you display achievements? Are your student proud of what they are learning in the classroom? Are your students being individually challenged to become better humans?
Being nice in not enough in itself for one to become a master teacher, but it is a good starting point. If you are nice in the classroom, you will in the very least create a classroom atmosphere that makes learning a more efficient process. This article was based on the thoughts and personal experiences of a specific teacher. It is not a research-based paper; it is hoped that the reader will explore this topic in more depth during their teaching career.
|About the author:
Nuno Dias is the head tutor for the Advanced CertTEYL E-Learning course and is a strong proponent of classrooms that are full of life. Learning should be a great joy and children need to be treated well.
If you teach English to children, the CertTEYL course will bring out the best in you. You will be assigned your own one-to-one tutor, who will be very nice to you and you can explore your full potential. Sign up now!
FREE RESOURCES FOR YOUR CLASSROOM