“Don’t smile until Christmas. You’ve got to lay down the law from day one and get control of the classroom. You can always be nice later, but if you start out too nice, you’ll lose ’em.”
I’ll confess. I bought it, too. And I’m sure I’ve passed the same advice along over the years to younger colleagues (please accept my belated apologies). But today, in a discussion, it slapped me in the head like a wet fish.
The myth has been busted. It’s a lie. You can be nice AND still control the class. It’s called engagement.
It’s the classic Machiavellian question, “Is it better to be feared than loved?” If you design a flexible learning environment built on relationships, curiosity, passion, empathy, and impact – you won’t have to rely on fear. Your students will be too engaged.