Every time I listen to someone who has met Bill Clinton, they describe the experience as magical. He makes you feel like you are the only person in the world that matters.

Michael Ellsberg calls it the “Reality Distortion Field.”

“ (RDF)—an aura of charisma, confidence, and persuasion, in which people report it almost impossible to avoid surrendering to the man and following his will when interacting face-to-face.” (

How does Clinton do that?

Who was your favorite teacher in school?  I met my favorite teacher as an accident. I originally transferred into his class because I heard he was much easier than my other teacher (who made you do 20 mini essay questions every night for homework – what a waste of time!).

Mr. Hilton was easy in the traditional homework way, but he expanded my mind more than any other teacher I can remember. I ended up taking his classes in sophomore, junior, and senior year.

Hilton was mesmerizing. His knowledge base was so deep that for the first time that I could remember, I looked forward to going to a class. I forewent art class and other layups in my junior and senior year, so that I could take more history classes with Hilton. I barely took notes, but I aced the AP US History exam anyway.

He knew so much about everything that I was in awe most of the time.  But looking back on the situation, I came to the conclusion that it was how he presented himself that most impressed me.

All the students liked Mr. Hilton and all learned a lot from him.  Why?  Reflecting back to high school, I realized it was his charisma.

Trust, Competence, Dynamism, and Immediacy

There are those who say that charisma doesn’t matter in the classroom and that it has nothing to do with teaching.  However, John Hattie’s research proves that charisma is a huge factor in the classroom.

Charisma is mentioned in Visible Learning for Teachers (which many have described as “The Holy Grail” of teaching), but is presented as the concept:Teacher Credibility. And Teacher Credibility has a surprisingly large impact on student achievement.

“According to Hattie teacher credibility is vital to learning, and students are very perceptive about knowing which teachers can make a difference. There are four key factors of credibility: trust, competence, dynamism and immediacy.” (

They don’t teach you how to be charismatic in college education classes. They focus too much on methodology and not enough on soft skills that you are about to learn. However, if students like you, they will learn from you. It’s that simple.

In an interview Hattie puts it like that: “If a teacher is not perceived as credible, the students just turn off.”  In fact, it makes the Top Ten of all factors that influence learning in the classroom. These two ideas: Charisma and Teacher Credibility will be connected so you can get the most of this Class Hack and put you in control of yourself and the students’ attention.

Power, Presence, and Warmth

 Now, you may be thinking that charisma cannot be taught.  However, even with charisma, teachers need to employ the “Growth Mindset”.  So how do you define charisma?  Sounds difficult, but in her book THE CHARISMA MYTH, Olivia Fox Cabane defines charisma as a combination of three aspects: Power, Presence, and Warmth. Charisma was once thought of as innate, but Cabane proves in her book that these elements can be taught and learned.  Wouldn’t you like to have more charisma in the classroom?


This isn’t power in the House of Cards kind of way. Power, according to Cabane, simply “means being perceived as able to affect the world around us, whether through influence on or authority over others, large amounts of money, expertise, intelligence, sheer physical strength, or high social status.”

Teachers naturally have authority over others in terms of the students in the class, due to their social position.   The large amounts of money aspect, currently escapes the teaching profession, but hey we do have intelligence (hopefully), expertise (maybe), and high social status (mention you are a teacher at a dinner party and watch the guests swoon!).

Regardless, teachers naturally have power in the classroom the first day of school. It is only through their own fault that they do not have power on the last day of school.  Students should see you as a powerful ally in their educational journey.
Remember: Not the “I can destroy your life” type power, but the “I can help you” power.

Body Language

Power depends on many things, but a quick way to increase your power is to practice power posing. Amy Cuddy: Body Language Shapes Who You Are is a fantastic TED TALK on the subject of how people view your power based on your body language. Her research has proved that you can increase your testosterone (the power hormone and pretty much the hormone that fuels all desired successful traits) by power posing for just two minutes!

Try doing a few of power poses before class and you will feel more confident and powerful. Power poses include:

  • Standing: straight back, legs spread should width apart, hands in the air (think of when a referee signals touchdown) or on your hips (think of a general inspecting his troops. The point is to take up space.
  • Sitting: taking up space by putting hands behind your head, keeping your legs shoulder width apart, or by expanding your upper torso by putting your arm on and adjacent seat.  You can find more examples here.

Nonverbal communication is estimated to be about 60% of all communication.

What are you communicating to your class?

To be continued…

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