Fancy Composure


TECHNIQUE #54:  Firm Calm Finesse

cover.jpg#54 Firm Calm Finesse: Take steps to get compliance without conflict by establishing an environment of purpose and respect and by maintaining your own poise.  All classrooms have a right to be managed in a classy, composed fashion.  Here are the finer points of teaching that ironically, just can’t be taught, but should be a staple of the champion teachers’ mantras.  Teachers should, “…act as if they couldn’t imagine a universe is which students wouldn’t follow through, and this, lo and behold, causes students to follow through.”, (p. 403)¹.  The following 15second video clip is a perfect example; the teacher, Laura, doesn’t say a word, rather looks directly at a student, as if saying “I’m sorry, you’re not really thinking of tracking those muddy boots into this house, I didn’t think so, thank you for taking them off…”, and SMILE.

Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹ gives the teacher permission, in times of classroom management, to be the stuck-up hostess!  High social expectations and unrelenting resolve to to have high standards of normalized classroom activity.   Here are the seven recommended precepts for Firm Calm Finesse:


  • If you’ve become mad, you’ve waited too long to address a behavior
  • Don’t send a message that you’ll tolerate little disruptions; they won’t cure themselves.
  • Bold or disruptive behaviors, caught early, should feel like an adjustment not a fix




  • The students surrounding the off-task behavior have a right to learn
  • Correction of classroom behavior should lead to achievement and self-discipline, NOT reinforcement of your power over students.
  • Keep corrections tight, crisp, and subtle; avoid fuss, your belabored emotions and excess verbiage.
  • Say: “We learn more when we are sitting like scholars” as opposed to “I need you to sit up straight and pay attention, I want to see you following my instructions”
  • It’s OK to remind students that your high expectations are about learning and the rights of all learners in the room, not about you the teacher.

In this video clip, the teacher says to a student volunteering an answer; “Sorry Precious, we’re waiting on four”.  Meaning, that he’d love to hear what the student is trying to say, but there are four other students who are off task and not listening.  Not “I need everyone’s attention” or “I’m waiting for Susan, Joey, Bill and Ted to stop what they are doing and comply”…



I use this form of politesse frequently in the classroom; at the on set of disruption, simply making firm eye contact with a student, smiling with a pause and saying “Thank you” communicates a multitude of behavioral adjustment suggestions.

  • “Thank You” reinforces expectations and normalizes compliance in the subtlest way possible
  • “It’s useful to signal that civility and thus society are fully intact in your classroom by modeling “please” and “thank you” constantly.


  • Remind students that expectations are universal NOT personal
  • “We need you with us” is much better than, “I need you with me”
  • Let students know that learning is a “team sport”.
  • Remind behaviors that are starting to fray that : The rest of the group is meeting the expectations.
  • Invoke your school mascot or school name:  “Everyone, like outstanding Wildcats!”, or “Thank you, like Lincoln Prep scholars!”  (I love this idea.)


  • Bright face = age appropriate teaching smile
  • A smile is a “self-fulfilling prophecy”
  • Have a confident default smile that says, “I like this work and the people in this classroom”
  • Avoid huge, fake beaming smiles




  • Demonstrate trust in your directed eye-contact.  “Showing trust is self-fulfilling”
  • Ask for modification, confirmation glance, then walk away, confirmation glance back for verification of follow through
  • “Sometimes a student needs just a bit of space to pull it together to decide if he or she wants to do the right thing.”,(p.405)¹.



  • Don’t suggest to students that you are emotionally distraught by their behavior
  • Return focus to the immediate task at hand!
  • Inserting emotion into behavioral redirection distracts students from reflecting on or adjusting their actions.

indexI’d like to consider here, providing Firm Calm Finesse professional training for para educators and other adults that are present in increasing numbers in classrooms.  Time and time again, I observe very even handed, calm teachers’ hard work to maintain and cultivate civilized classrooms only to have that stable working environment under cut by harsh reprobation, loud accusatory remarks and demoralizing accusations from para educators.  All to frequently, not only myself but the students! are distracted by whispering, texting para educators.   Where in lies the solution to calming the presence of the assisting adults in the classroom with finesse?  High behavioral expectations should be upheld by all persons in the the classroom;  what is the polite way to explain to another adult, you’re behaving badly too!?