Sometimes new teachers look at me like I’m crazy when I say things like, “with just your eyes, show Jimmy that you want him to stop talking.” But an effective “teacher look” is an important classroom management tool — just one look can show students that you mean business without saying a word. (In this video, Madeline Noonan explains how she’s perfected her fabulous teacher look in order to redirect student behavior.)
The secret to a successful teacher look (just like the secret to any effective teaching strategy) is the relationship you build with your students. The teacher look works because you’re making eye contact with someone you know and care about — you’re showing him or her that you see them, you know what they are thinking, and you’re giving them a chance to get it together.
Lately I’ve realized that teacher looks aren’t just for redirecting student behavior. There’s an entirely different teacher look, a look that communicates a teacher’s undivided attention. This look reveals the awe in seeing a student “get it.”
One of my favorite Teaching Channel videos features a prime example of this look. At minute 8:12 in Passion for Fractions, we see Becky Pittard provide nonverbal encouragement for a student as he works to make sense of a mathematical model. It’s so powerful to see the split screen of the student grappling with the problem while Ms. Pittard watches him intently, her entire body focused on the student’s learning.
Every time I see this look, I’m struck by its magic. It’s the kind of look that makes students feel comfortable sharing and encourages them to take risks. I’m constantly amazed at how teachers are able to create intimate moments with individual students while maintaining calm and order with the rest of the class.
This Teacher Appreciation Week, I want to thank you for giving your students the looks that inspire them to engage and persist, to learn, to feel seen, loved, and appreciated. Know that I’m sending that look right back at you, hoping that you too feel seen, loved, and appreciated.