The WORST Advice I Ever Received As a Teacher

don't smile until Christmas

Classroom management is one of the most important aspects of great teaching. But believing you have to be a stern, grumpy disciplinarian to get students to respect you and follow your expectations is misguided, harmful, and well…toxic.

I don’t know about you, but I want to have fun teaching and enjoy myself while working with students and its pretty hard to do that without smiling. 🤨 And in my opinion, having your students see you smiling when they enter the classroom each day, excited to lead them in a lesson, is a powerful practice that should be encouraged- especially to new, young teachers.

If students see you happy while teaching, they are more likely to enjoy your class and to put in serious effort as well.

The “Don’t Smile Until Christmas” mentality is a harmful approach to classroom management that can destroy classroom culture.

It rests on the misguided belief that you have to be angry or upset if students are not meeting expectations and that students perform better if they are scared of getting in trouble. (harnessing my inner Dwight Schrute)- FALSE.

Its actually best to enforce your rules fairly, consistently, and matter-of-factly. Consequences should be given without shaming or scolding a student, but in a way that helps them make better choices in the future and demonstrates to them that you are there to help them grow and be successful, not catch them being bad.

If you are worried about students either disrespecting you, walking over you, or just not following your rules, trust me- just being stern and unfriendly- will not lead to respect or students’ following your rules and expectations.


To get students to respect you and follow your rules, you need to do 3 main things. One, establish relationships with your students so they know you care about them and are there to push them to be better humans. Two, enforce your rules fairly, consistently, and matter-of-factly from August until June. And three, practice routines and procedures until they are mastered by your students. Then practice them some more.

And guess what, you can do all three of those with a big ‘ole smile on your face. 

So instead of “Don’t smile until Christmas” I created a few new “management maxims” that you’d be much better off following this school year.

classroom management tips

My advice, smile straight through June! 

Keep teaching and learning,
Dan Lewer
2020 Hawai’i History Teacher of the Year

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