5 Components that Enhance Positive Expectations: #4: Smile

5 Components that Enhance Positive Expectations: #4: Smile


You can help students believe in themselves, by believing in them. This post series focuses on ways to let your positive expectations show.

Dale Carnegie’s classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, lists some thirty ideas for getting people to like you, respect you, and see things your way. Of these ideas, just one is summed up in a single word: “Smile!”

Carnegie’s chapter on smiling opens with a real-life example of a socialite who showed up at a dinner party wearing expensive new clothes, piles of jewelry—and a face that “radiated sourness and selfishness.” Her hopes of making a good impression went down the tubes. If you’ve been in the habit of grooming yourself immaculately but showing a perpetually glum expression, better practice your sincere smile, or no amount of remembering names or saying “please” and “thank you” will convince your students you hold genuinely positive expectations for them or yourself.


If you have trouble maintaining an unforced smile, try the following hints:

  • Practice all you can, in every setting you can. Smile at your family over breakfast, the drive-through clerk when you pick up your morning coffee, your fellow teachers in the break room, the school custodian as you leave work, the police officer directing traffic on your evening commute.
  • Practice looking people in the eye as well. That gesture is virtually inseparable from a meaningful smile.
  • Speak in an upbeat tone. The smile on your face follows the smile in your voice, and vice versa.
  • Try not to overload your schedule, eat too many doughnuts, or stay up until midnight. It’s a lot harder to smile if you feel cranky, malnourished, tired, and rushed.
  • Think about pleasant things. Close your mind to “what-iffing” and your ears to gripe sessions.
  • Do some or all of the following regularly: count your blessings, take a brisk walk, read funny stories, hum a cheerful tune, stroke a pet, practice yoga, take in a natural view.
  • Keep plants and beautiful pictures—maybe even a fish tank—in your classroom to nourish your eyes and soul.
  • If you’re in the middle of a class and feel like doing anything but smiling, call for a stand-up-and-stretch break. Better yet, try a “laugh break”—everyone exercises their lungs by laughing loud and long at anything or nothing. Or invite your most cheerful student to share his or her best joke about the subject under study. (Class clowns come in handy at times.)
  • Do take breaks between classes and at lunch. Unceasing work will wear you down on all levels—and, contrary to what seems logical on first glance, will ultimately increase the time it takes to get everything done.
  • If all else fails, make an appointment with your doctor to see if you have a clinical-depression problem.

And remember, students will imitate your overall attitude, often taking it outside the classroom—so smile for their sake!