Check your body for points of tension – are your shoulders tight? Your students will notice, I promise you. Do you look people in the eye or avoid eye contact? Do you stand tall and proud when standing in front of the class or do you crouch over your desk when teaching? Whether consciously or not, humans tend to ‘mirror’ others’ postures, pace of movement, and other subtle physical behaviors. Do you want your students to be mirroring a tense, abrupt, jerky, trembling person or someone whose body is grounded, centered, calm, and strong but flowing?
Think about the qualities you seek in your students, consciously change your movements to suit whenever you have a minute to think about them, and practice releasing tension and increasing strength in your movements. As you would expect with your students, practice until what you want to convey comes naturally and automatically.
Is your body open to the students or closed? If you find yourself crossing your arms or keeping your hands in your pockets, think about whether it is an appropriate gesture for the situation or whether you are ‘defending’ yourself by closing off. Think about the scale of gestures you make – do you make small, tight gestures that can only be seen from the front row? Or could you move in larger, more sweeping and flowing ways so that even the kids in the back can see and sense what you are expressing?
When do you feel your stomach clutch? Do your hands sweat at a times? Notice the things – that trigger physical reactions in your body. The triggers can be many things: situations, people, events, ideas, tone of voice, etc. As you become conscious of your physical reactions and the triggers for them, consider what you would like to say with your body versus what you are actually saying to them. Are you calm, cool, and collected? Or frazzled, frantic and failing?
You are the role model for your students. And, very likely, the one adult that they spend the most time with. How you speak and move in the classroom has a powerful effect on their attitudes and reactions to you. Moreover, they will respond to and even emulate your physical and vocal expressions. In the best of all possible worlds, wouldn’t you want your students to be able to move freely, speak clearly, think well of themselves and be considerate to others?