Talk Less, Smile More

I may not agree with Burr’s reasoning for this adage, talk less, smile more, in Hamilton, but I think it’s a pretty good mantra in general. Especially for teachers to have. I’m pretty good at the ‘smile more’ part but I really stink at the ‘talk less’ piece.


Leslie Odom Jr, who played Burr in Hamilton from photos taken by the White House

Talk Less

One problem I have is that I often start talking too soon. My brain hasn’t fully fleshed out the idea I want to get across. So I talk my way to it. Not a good strategy. It means I use a good ten times as many words as I should need. By the time I’ve figured out what I’m really trying to say, my students have likely tuned out. I would have. Talking less doesn’t have to mean I’m saying less. It means I need to be thoughtful about the words I’m choosing in order to succinctly say I what I want to say.

I also believe, not surprisingly, that talking is a great way to move thinking forward. As a result, I want my kiddos to talk. If I’m talking, they probably aren’t (although it’s not a guarantee!). On occasion I’ve asked colleagues to come in and observe who is talking for how much of the time. My own perception can be off in either direction and it helps to have an impartial set of ears focused on this question. I’ve also recorded lessons so that I can watch and listen later to see how much talking we’re all doing. My goal would be to have my students talking at a significantly higher percentage than I. Of course, this also requires that I’m better at the planning as noted above. When I do talk in my classroom, I want my words and questions to push my students’ thinking. (This is a place I fear I fail as parent as well as a teacher.)

Smile More

I know as a busy person that I don’t always smile as much as I’d like at my own daughters (or my husband, but this is about kids). I get caught up in everything that needs to be done, in the details of our days, and lose sight of the big picture. I would be surprised if I were alone in this as a parent.

I face similar challenges at school. There’s always more to do. Getting X, Y, and Z done before lunch and then A, B, and C before we head home. I have trouble living each moment instead of rushing into the next one. Because of this, I make sure I greet every student at the door with a smile and their name in the mornings. I want to be sure I smile at everyone at least once. Hopefully they get many more smiles throughout the day, but just in case…

In the hallways and lunchroom I try to smile at everyone, kids and adults. I know seeing a smile can lift one up. I believe if we all smiled at one another throughout the day it would shift the atmosphere just a tad with each smile. Our school would become an even brighter, happier place to be for all of us. It’s tough to be in a bad mood when you’re smiling and it’s tough not to smile when everyone else is smiling at you.

Talk less, smile more. I believe my youngest daughter’s fourth grade teacher has this hanging in a frame in her classroom. That might not be a bad idea, a constant reminder to myself. Four words, nothing life-changing in some ways, and yet maybe it could be.

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