There was a special moment in my classroom that taught me the power of a smile and how a smile has the power to facilitate trust.

I was talking with our Pre-K age students during our morning group time when a student walked in a little late. I greeted her with a warm “Good morning!” then asked her to put her things in her cubby and come to join us.

Now you should know that this was the first week back to school but this was my second year to have the students in my class.

As the little girl sat down in our circle, she immediately began chatting quietly with her friend. She even positioned her body so that she faced slightly away from me and towards her friend. I tried to continue on with our morning circle only to see the little girl continue to chat with her friend and turn even further away from me.

Slightly Frustrated

After a few minutes, and feeling slightly frustrated, I called out the little girl’s name and watched her chin and eyes drop immediately to the floor. I knew that she thought she was about to get into trouble. Being that this was one of our first few days of school, I didn’t want the little girl to think she was in trouble so I gently called her name again and asked to look at me and again she didn’t look my way. After my third try, the little girl slowly looked up at me and when she did, I chose to give her a genuine smile then said, “There you are? I wondered where you were!”

Trust was Established

Immediately, I could see the wall between us clearly crumbled. She smiled broadly back, giggled a little then turned her body towards me. We then went on with our morning. From that moment on, this little girl always looked at me when I called her name and always joined group time with her body facing my direction. That was her choice but more importantly, that was because in that moment – trust was established.

Trust is Critical

Trust is such a critical part of fostering a child’s sense of community and building strong bonds with the children you serve. I learned so much from that single moment and to this day, if I call a child’s name for any reason, I always make sure that when they respond to my call – I greet them first with a smile. No matter what.

A smile is powerful.

It can melt ice, break down walls, calm emotions, and it can build trust.

Your Teaching Task: Respond with a smile

I have another task for you to take back into your classroom and try. The next time you need to call out a child’s name for any reason, and when they look at you, greet their eye contact with a smile.  A genuine smile.