Influence. 8 ways to harness it in the classroom


Teaching | Thursday, May 9, 2013

Influence. 8 ways to harness it in the classroom



It’s the real reason so many of us got into education in the first place.

That “make a difference in the lives of children” place in our hearts? It’s about influence.

We don’t just want to teach content.

We want to influence lives.

One of the epic tomes on the subject, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, has shaped my personal and teaching life substantially. The words penned by Carnegie in 1936 still hold the same weight today.

I’m a graduate of the Dale Carnegie Course on human relations and public speaking and have served multiple times as a graduate assistant.

I took it as a high school student and it brought me out of my shell. Introduced me to a side of myself I had never met.

So many of Carnegie’s principles relate to education. And so many of them feel like common sense.

It’s a shame that they’re not required reading for pre-service teachers. Carnegie would probably mold their teaching more positively than many curriculum and law texts.

Here are some top takeaways from the book for teachers:

1. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely. That goes farther than a quick “good job.” My students can see right through that. Pointed praise and honest attention can be a lifeblood.

2. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. Being wrong scares teachers (and people in general) to death. These days, a quick Google search can prove a teacher wrong seconds after a statement in class. Students don’t expect us to be right all the time. Showing that we’re real human beings goes a long way.

3. Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately. This is subtle and powerful. The simple act of saying “yes” puts us in a more positive mindset. This tool should be in every teacher’s tool belt – and within easy reach.

[RELATED: Motivating our students]

4. Smile. If someone ever taught you not to smile until Thanksgiving, that person was wrong.

5. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person. Remind students that we were in their shoes. That we’re susceptible to error, too. That they’re not weird if they mess up.

6. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders. Everyone likes to feel like they have a say in the decision-making process. Sometimes, if the subtlety is lost on a student, I like to explain that I can either ask nicely or demand, and that student usually gets it.

7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to. Goethe said, “Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is; treat a man as he can and should be, and he will become as he can and should be.” Enough said.

8. Dramatize your ideas. Make it bold and visual. In the book, Carnegie writes of a salesman throwing pennies on the floor, showing the customer how much money he was losing with each customer.

What tips would you add to win people to your way of thinking? Leave ideas, or react to the ideas above, in a comment below!

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