We’ve all got them. Children soon latch onto them and they love to imitate them. So what can we do about them?
Mannerisms are part and parcel of who we are as individuals but they can get in the way of a good lesson.
It wasn’t until I first saw myself on video that I realised I used touched my nose a fair bit and said the word ‘basically’ a lot. I felt embarrassed. Next lesson, I soon parked those habits. Or so I thought. It wasn’t until a colleague of mine pointed out my quirks in an informal lesson observation and I was mortified. These behavioural traits had resurfaced!
We can’t help who we are – our idiosyncrasies make up our personalities and they can be endearing. But children are ruthless and will seize upon the things we do, what we say and they way we say it. If we have certain sayings or phrases that we repeat on a regular basis then they are going to go for them.
We need to guard against some of our class mannerisms because they can be distracting. You might be an engaging teacher with a firm grasp of your subject. You might have a good rapport with your class and have your finger on the pulse of all the latest research. But, if there is something you do or say that raises a smile and gets a giggle, it could be enough to disrupt the learning process.
One respected colleague has a teaching habit that he just can’t seem to kick even though this has been pointed out to him. The problem is this: he always asks a question and then immediately asks it again. This repeat habit has earned him quite a reputation and even though he does say the question twice over, students still don’t hear what he is saying because they are just focused on his habit.
It’s not just in the classroom we need to worry about either. Training sessions are a goldmine of mannerisms. One brilliant teacher I knew had the hugely distracting habit of putting his hands into his pockets and jingling his change. After a while, all people could hear was the coins bouncing about and his message was lost. It was definitely nerves that made him do this because he only ever did this when talking to adults.
Our body language says a lot and as people who spend a huge amount of time ‘on stage’ then we’ve got to be more self-aware. Mannersisms are hard to eliminate but I would urge every teacher to record some of their lessons and zoom in on what you do.
You might find you turn every question into a rhetorical or pseudo-question by simply providing the answer to it. Here’s a great video of how not to do it.
We spend a disproportionate amount of time focused on student behaviour. We worry too much about what they are doing. What we also need to be thinking about is our own behaviour and especially our mannerisms. Nervous habits and mannerisms can be annoying and distracting.