Don’t Smile Till Thanksgiving

Of all the horrible classroom management advice I have heard, “don’t smile until Thanksgiving” has got to be just about the worst.

The implication is if you act mean, strict, unsmiling, and cold, you will be able to intimidate your students into behaving. Then later (after Thanksgiving, presumably) you can “lighten up,” and reveal that you really aren’t that bad after all.

3 Reasons “Don’t Smile Till Thanksgiving” is Bad Advice

There are probably a million reasons this is bad advice, but I know you are busy, so I will limit myself to three:

1- Today’s students aren’t that easily intimidated. They either come from a home where adults (unfortunately) are much meaner than you could ever be, or a home where adults protect them from anything unpleasant (including mean teachers). Most of today’s students (thank goodness) are not taught to submit to authority, no matter how unreasonable.

2- Consistency is the best way to teach your students appropriate behavior. There is no such thing as the giant consequence that will make everything all better. When you switch from mean to nice, and then back to mean again, your students will continue to misbehave, just to see where the line is today.

3- Building a positive relationship with your students has been shown time and time again to be one of the most effective ways to create respect. Students who respect their teachers are more likely to do what they ask. Students who feel like their teachers hate them will resist and rebel.

Smile A Lot and Set Reasonable Limits

My advice to you is smile a lot from the very first minute of school, while you set logical, reasonable limits and build rapport with your students. They will be much nicer to you. Trust me.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, Positive Teaching Strategies

Additional Awesome Teacher Nation Resources


  • Create a Great Day for Yourself and Your Students
  • 5-Minute Classroom Management Hints
  • The Take-Charge Teacher
  • All The Ways I Screwed Up My First Year of Teaching
  • The Classroom Teacher’s Coloring Book
  • The Classroom Teacher’s Coloring Book, Volume 2

VideosAwesome Teacher Nation TV videos, including:

  • Why Threats and Punishments Don’t Work
  • Saving Time on Paperwork and Grading
  • 7 Strategies to Deal With the Pencil Sharpener
  • What’s the BEST Classroom Management Strategy?

Online Courses

  • Taming the Chaos: How to Create and Effective Classroom Routine
  • Making Money as an In-Demand Substitute Teacher
  • A Day in the Life of a Substitute Teacher
  • The Substitute Teacher’s Troubleshooting Guide

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