Introduction: Establishing a friendly tone

The first perspective of Friendly & Fair Teaching (FFT) is ‘Setting a friendly tone’. By teaching in a friendly manner, teachers create a positive learning environment. They consciously set a good example and are accountable for it. They create a good atmosphere and provide opportunities to work together. In this way, everyone gets to know each other better.

I teach in a friendly manner and I find that most students follow my lead. By teaching in a friendly manner, I prevent disruptions. If a student does disrupt the lesson, I reinforce positive behaviour. The social aspect comes first in my lessons. When everyone is friendly, you feel at home.

Do not confuse kindness with weakness.” Rihanna

Current approach:

How friendly am I now?

Future approach:

How friendly do I want to be in the future?

Introduction video

Introduction: Establishing a friendly tone

The first perspective of Friendly & Fair Teaching (FFT) is ‘Establishing a friendly tone’.

Figure 7: Establishing a friendly tone (overview)

In this perspective, we will discuss how you set the right example and what impact it has on your students. The first three modules of the ‘Establishing a friendly tone’ have to do with you as a role model.

  1. In the module ‘Setting the standard of behaviour’ you will read how important it is to maintain a friendly attitude even in challenging situations.
  2. In the module ‘Communication through gestures’ we discuss how you communicate with your students using gestures. This nonverbal communication puts more emphasis on the learning objective.
  3. With the module ‘Managing emotions’ you can calm or activate a class by managing your emotions.

The fourth module ‘Building relationships’ deals with the importance of getting acquainted. This module also covers how to give students in different roles opportunities to get acquainted. When unfamiliarity disappears, everyone dares to be vulnerable. Collaboration improves if students get to know each other in a positive way.

A Friendly tone is not enough. FFT recommends combining friendliness with clarity. That way you avoid confusing friendly with soft. If you teach friendly and clear, you teach undisturbed (Introduction video).

1. Importance of establishing a friendly tone

1.1 Establishing a friendly tone

We imitate each other’s behaviour. Take advantage of that tendency by teaching in a friendly manner. Most students will then adopt your friendly attitude. Only a few students who do not believe that you are truly friendly will occasionally disrupt your lesson.

Pedagogue Philippe Meirieu indicates that it is the duty of parents and teachers to resist the child’s impulses:

The teacher will have to patiently accompany the child on the path of learning to defer: he will have to teach the child not to react impulsively immediately to everything with violence or frustration. He will have to teach the child to take the time to ask himself questions, to anticipate, to reflect, to control his impulses and thus build his willpower.” Meirieu (2016)

If you manage to remain friendly when resisting the child’s impulses and reinforce positive behaviour, you can teach uninterrupted.

Figure 10: Most students adopt your behaviour

1.2 Not establishing a friendly tone

If you respond to students’ agitation with agitation, if you literally mirror your students’ agitation, you are not setting a good example in that moment. The chances of you reacting agitatedly are high because we naturally imitate each other’s behaviour. If you act unfriendly, it is to be expected that your students will also act unfriendly toward you and toward their peers. It is then less easy to reinforce positive behaviour and a grim atmosphere develops. This affects everyone, both the students and yourself. It is very tiring being angry. Your joy in teaching disappears. When you are angry or scared, you don’t make good decisions. Then teaching is exhausting.

Figure 4: scared and angry

1.3 Starting with establishing a friendly tone


You can start with a friendly attitude at any time. FFT’s advice is to act friendly even if the group is restless. If you succeed in establishing a friendly tone, this has an impact on the following lessons. You will notice that your students will also start to act friendly toward you. Don’t forget to be fair at the same time: combine friendly with fair:

+ Fair

When you first get the group’s attention, immediately discuss the framework (part of the perspective: ‘Establishing fairness’). Only after this has been discussed and when everyone knows that your intention is to be both friendly and fair, your students understand that it is in their own interest that you reinforce positive behaviour when a student disrupts the lesson.

Getting Started

Once the framework has been established and you have met with your students, you pay attention to learning objectives.

Check out the other perspectives: ‘Establishing fairness’, ‘Planning lessons’, ‘Observing’, and ‘Reinforcing positive behaviour’.

2 Summary.

When you are both friendly and fair, you teach undisturbed.

3 Credits

Peter van der Bosch – Rapper with the stage name Tony Scott Together with Johan ‘t Hart, Peter has taught music at the Pieter Nieuwland College in Amsterdam. Together they organized 16 projects at primary and secondary schools. Peter was able to always remain friendly and calm even when the projects were challenging. His friendly attitude is the foundation of Friendly & Fair Teaching