It’s human nature to want to be liked and accepted. Brene Brown, acclaimed researcher, and author states “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong.” Beyond our inherent need to be liked and accepted, being likable is important for teachers because relationships are at the heart of what we do. Learning does not take place at the level we strive for without a positive relationship. For some teachers being warm, friendly, and likable comes easy. For others, it comes less naturally. Regardless of which category you fall into the good news is that becoming a likable teacher is based on qualities that all fall within reach.
Dr. Travis Bradberry states that likability comes from “qualities that are completely under people’s control, such as approachability, humility, and positivity.”
The benefits for teachers are high. Better relationships with students mean students that are more receptive to learning and who care about what you have to say. Relationships with parents mean that you can work together through conflicts and be on the same team when it comes to the progress of the student. Relationships with admin mean greater support and a voice in the school. And relationships with coworkers mean someone that has your back, can collaborate with you, and the fulfillment of having friendships at work.
Dr. Travis Bradberry outlines some habits likable people typically have. Being likable is more in your control than you may think. These do’s and don’ts can serve teachers well in creating positive relationships with those around them.
DO be genuine
It is easy to spot a fake, so work to be your real self. Own up to your mistakes and be willing to laugh at yourself. Dr. Bradberry states “People gravitate toward those who are genuine because they know they can trust them. It is difficult to like someone when you don’t know who they really are and how they really feel.”
DON’T be an attention hog
People generally don’t find those that are attention seeking as likable. As teachers, some attention is inevitable, so an element of humility can help and goes a long way. For example, if you are receiving praise for your part in a student’s growth, you can say something like ‘Thank you, but Johnny worked very hard on this accomplishment.’
DO listen more than you talk
You may be the expert in the classroom, but it is important to listen more than you speak. When you listen and don’t steal the show, people are more willing to open up to you and trust you. It creates a better relationship overall because they feel that you care about their point of view.
DON’T be judgmental
When your student is struggling, it can be easy to shift the blame to family and home life. Add to that cultural differences and differences in parenting styles, and it can be easy to look down upon your student’s family, even accidentally. Other teachers may have a different style and do things in a way with which you disagree. Try to keep an open mind and remember that with teaching and parenting there is no one right way to do things. Give people the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the best they can.
DO keep your passion alive
Why did you go into teaching? Was it to make money? Likely not. You probably went into teaching because you have a passion for working with children, you wanted to make the world a better place, you experienced the joy that comes with having taught someone something new, and you had a love for the subject you teach. Remember why you do what you do and don’t let the difficult parts of the job drive that away. Part of keeping that passion alive means that sometimes you have to unplug from teaching. Take care of you and try to find balance in other parts of your life. People will feel your passion and be drawn to you because of it.
DON’T be a flake
People tend to like those who follow through on what they say they will do. If you commit to something, do your best to see it through. No one is perfect all the time, but being dependable is an essential quality when trying to build relationships.
Being a teacher is hard, but having good relationships with students, parents, co-workers, and administrators can make your job just a little easier. Work hard to develop these habits and along with them your relationships.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.