Every day a teacher steps into a classroom, they are being judged by their students on many factors. This experience is called social perception. IN this post, we will look at social perception and its role in the classroom.
Social perception is how we interpret the people around us through the impressions we make of these people. Students also develop social perceptions of other students as well as teachers. Several categories in which a teacher is perceived socially and several of them are explained below.
Verbal and Nonverbal Communication
What a teacher says to students and how they say it is a part of verbal and nonverbal communication. The tone of voice a teacher uses communicates the emotional state of the teacher. For example, if the teacher is yelling, it may indicate anger at the students, while a teacher who speaks in a hesitant tone may communicate a lack of confidence.
The precision of the language indicates to many students the level of professionalism of the teacher. For example, a teacher who uses slang may be trying to encourage an informal atmosphere. In contrast, a teacher’s highly formal use of language may be an attempt to set a serious tone in the classroom. Accent also plays a role, but a teacher will have a more challenging time controlling their accent than the precision and tone of voice.
Nonverbal communication is also critical in maintaining a positive social perception. Smiling vs. frowning is a form of body language. Both of these are appropriate in a specific situation. In addition, such things as posture, eye contact can communicate confidence. A slouching teacher who does not look students in the eye may have a greater difficulty in maintaining authority compared to a teacher with erect posture and strong eye contact. This is especially true when students are disruptive. A teacher needs to look like they are in charge even if the situation is out of control. The calm, confident, steady hand of a firm teacher can prevent a lot of problems.
Some of the interpretations students have of a teacher are made merely from the position of the teacher. For example, the occupation of teacher often has high-status in the eyes of students as the teacher is the direct leader and supervisor of students. As such, students will often treat the teacher differently from the janitor due in part to the teacher’s position in relation to the janitor.
This can even be more complicated. Older teachers or teachers who have been at a school longer also have certain credibility that new teachers have to earn. Students know the more senior teachers personally or have heard of them through friends, and this will often make the teacher’s job easier or harder depending on what the students think of them.
Students own personality influences what they notice. Confident people tend to have a more positive view of others. In addition, students who have a better understanding of themselves are often better able to read others. Lastly, students who are comfortable with themselves are more likely to see other people, such as teachers, positively.
A teacher needs to be aware of how they are perceived by others, even students. This does not mean that a teacher should radically change their approach to please students. Instead, understanding this can help a teacher know their strengths and weaknesses in terms of what the students think.
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