What is Teacher Presence?
Scenario: You walk into a classroom full of 10 year old students. They are yelling, laughing, playing, and generally not doing anything they should be doing. As you enter the room, one student looks up and notices you. They nudge the student next to them. Slowly but surely, the noise quietens and before long, all eyes are upon you, waiting to hear what you have to say. THAT is teacher presence.
The ability that some people have to command a classroom with seemingly minimal effort.
How do I get Teacher Presence?
Some people have it naturally. Sorry if that’s not you! Don’t worry, it’s not me either. The good news is, that old ‘fake it til you make it’ adage is true for teachers! There are a few simple strategies that you can try today.
How to Fake It ‘Til You Make It
- The Teacher Look – You know that look that teachers give? The one that stops a student in their tracks? Practice your ‘teacher look’ in the mirror.
- Body Language – Be aware of how you hold yourself and of the message your body language sends. You need to project confidence, self-control, kindness, and enjoyment.
- Emotions – You need to manage these. Maintain a suitable tone and reel in those emotions, especially during those challenging moments when that one student just won’t listen to you, and the rest of the class are starting to act up too. Now is not the time to lose it! Above all, you need to be an image of calm, control, and firm.
- Classroom Setup – This says a lot about how you expect your students to learn. Do you have rows of tables (work alone), groups of tables (work collaboratively), flexible options (catering to diverse needs)?
- Words – Think before you speak, especially when you feel like you’re losing control of the class. Don’t blurt out random consequences that you have no hope of following through with.
- Be Authentic – I know, total contradiction of the ‘fake it til you make it’! Your students need to know that you are sincere and honest. Don’t go overboard trying to ‘fake it’. Implement these steps slowly, to ensure you are completely comfortable with each one.
- Build Relationships – Your students need to know that they are important to you. Treat them like the little humans that they are. Value their opinions. If something isn’t working in your classroom, ask them why. Ask for their ideas, and value their opinions. Give them a sense of ownership over the classroom and their learning.
- Project Confidence – As a self-confessed introvert, I really struggle with this one. Careful planning really helps – know what you’re going to teach, how you’re going to teach it. Write a script if needed. Research the concepts you’re planning to teach. Pretend to be a student and participate in the lesson yourself. Because if you don’t understand the lesson content, how do you expect your students to?
- Have a clear plan. What will you do if a student does not do what you want them to? Plan out a strategy and use it consistently. You can also involve your students in establishing what this is. Knowing what your strategy is means you can confidently implement it when needed.
- Ask for help. Speak to your more experienced colleagues about how they developed their teacher presence. Ask them for feedback on your strategies, and observe theirs.
Just like everything, developing teacher presence takes time and practice. Don’t expect it to be there on your first day of teaching! If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all of these tips, just choose the step that resonates most with you and try it for a week. Then come back and try another one. With time, you’ll be feeling more confident and in command of the classroom!
I’ve compiled all of these tips into a handy checklist printable, along with some reflection pages! You can download your FREE Teacher Presence Tips pack in the Free Resource Library.
Did you try these tips? Do you have some different tips you’d like to share? Drop a comment below to let me know!