Is Being a Popular Teacher Bad?

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Sometimes I only sheepishly admit I am a popular teacher to other teachers or administrators. I don’t use the term often because it does have a lot of negative connotations. I have mentioned this in previous posts. However, popularity, properly understood is a great thing, and something, I believe, most teachers absolutely want.

My brother’s students always had a little birthday party for him, complete with some snacks, hats, etc. It was a small gesture that took a few minutes of class time. Nonetheless, it made a big impact on him. It showed that he made an impact on his students. One time, another teacher asked the students why they didn’t throw her a birthday party. The students, being nice, gave a nice response, but the truth was that while this teacher was a decent person and teacher, she just didn’t have the characteristics that made her popular and well-liked by the students.

Popularity is not bad. In fact, being popular is good. We tend to do things for people we like. This is called the “Liking principle” and is one of psychologist and researcher Robert Cialdini’s techniques in his important book Influence. If your students like you, they will learn from you. Even if the topic of your class bores them to tears, they will nonetheless learn it as a favor to you. Have you ever sat through a lecture or talk by some cocky or idiotic presenter? Unless the information was extremely useful or compelling, my guess is that you likely didn’t want to learn from him or her. In fact, you may have tuned the presenter out immediately. What if you come across to your students like this? You would be amazed what your students might do for you if they just liked you.

Some teachers gasp at this. A student like you?? That is crazy! But the truth is that it works, and it makes everybody involved feel good. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to work with a clientele (which includes parents) that actually likes me and what I am doing for them. It sure beats working with a hostile clientele.

Now, remember, that we are not suggesting the students like you as they like someone their own age. You are not embracing popularity in this way. You are a popular teacher.

About David Bennett

David Bennett is a teacher, author, and speaker. His articles receive over a million hits per year and have appeared in a variety of publications. He is co-owner of a communication company, and he also writes for The Popular Teen and other sites. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.