Learning Innovation Teaching Resources

Developing Presence in the Classroom

When teaching for the first time, it can be difficult to know how to approach students or what type of teacher to be. Developing a strong presence in the classroom allows instructors to connect with students and lays the groundwork for a strong community within the classroom.  The way an instructor leads in the classroom is up to them and should be something the instructor is comfortable with, and will depend largely on teaching style, personality, and student dynamic.

When establishing presence in the classroom, consider the following:

  • Authenticity: Students want and need sincerity, honesty, and care for the subjects they are being taught. An honest approach to the class, to the instructor, and to the subject matter is vital to the effectiveness of an instructor’s teaching. Giving students honest responses like, “That’s a very good question. I don’t know the answer right now, but I’m going to write it down and get back to you tomorrow,” or “Class, I apologize...” can encourage students to take healthy risks in discussions and can give them permission to be imperfect. Some instructors worry this will diminish authority but often the opposite is true - transparency yields respect in the classroom and fosters a stronger bond in student and instructor.
  • Relationships: Developing positive and optimistic relationships is a worthwhile goal to have when establishing presence. An effective instructor communicates a genuine belief all students are capable of growth and learning. To create this type of engagement and shared focus, consider starting class with warm-up writing that intertwines issues of personal relevance to the students with the lesson of that particular day. For example, starting a government class on the First Amendment by asking, “What rights do you wish you had as a student that you currently don’t have, and why?” This type of question shows empathy with students’ perspective on the world and with their struggles.
  • Confidence: Effective teachers teach with confidence, which is not to be confused with arrogance. The first step in teaching with confidence is to know why you teach. Also consider body language in the classroom and the cadence of the voice. Speaking clearly and confidently exhibits authority. Entering a classroom slouched, looking to the floor, or scowling with crossed arms will not inspire too many students. Instead, stand tall, walk the room while talking, make eye contact, and smile.