Almost every teacher has been there. Yup, the good ones and the ones who need a little improvement. You’ve planned so much into a lesson and suddenly, heads are falling to desks and students are disengaged.
“Why don’t they like learning?” “What’s wrong with them?” “Didn’t they get enough sleep?”
These are just some of the most common phrases running through a teacher’s mind. Students experience boredom and all of a sudden, those darn kids are the problem. Now, what a mindful teacher would do in this situation is actually take a moment to dissect what the real problem might be. From there, he or she might truly discover the need to adjust accordingly. Then, just then, students may actually get excited about learning.
Contrary to popular belief, not all students hate learning. In fact, the majority of students enjoy learning – when there is a reason for them to be excited about it, that is. So, the million dollar question is: How can you get your students excited about learning? Out of all the strategies you can discover and implement, remember that the first step you can take is simply by trying. Everything will eventually fall into place. Here are some of the best ways to jumpstart your initiative.
- Make lessons relevant.
If you had to think back to a time where you could remember any lesson your teacher taught you, odds are that lesson was relevant to something in your life. That’s the thing about relevance. The moment something becomes familiar or connected to something we know, the easier it is to bridge that unknown and learn.
This means that you should do some research on whether your lessons have the ability to relate to your students. If a teacher wants to teach her students about the importance of pre-reading, she may use an example of athletes preparing for a game. She might ask them what could happen to the athletes if they didn’t warm up before a game. Some answers might be that they could get injured and not perform at their best, simply because they didn’t stretch or warm-up before activity. Then, she can relate this back to the importance of pre-reading and predicting before reading a text. Her students would grasp the concept that they are warming up their brains. They are preparing themselves to read a longer text because they took the time to stretch, pre-read and make predictions.
- Connect with them personally.
Any veteran teacher could tell you that one way to really get your students engaged is by getting to know them from the very beginning. Taking the extra time to find out a little more information can go a long way throughout the school year. One teacher stood outside her door every single day. She greeted her students and you can be certain that they all responded. The ones who were somewhat perplexed to see their teacher standing outside the door each day gave them a small sense of belonging and security. That eventually led to more conversation and questions in the class. All of a sudden, there was more trust and participation. Not to say that this is the one all, be all of the strategies. But, it sure helps to reinforce the concept of building positive relationships. Teach to Empower Your Students has some great strategies to explore and helping you make lessons more relevant and exciting.
In addition to connecting with students, be sure you know who you’re teaching. Look at your class demographics as well as their assessments. Being mindful of these things can help you gauge not only how to design lessons, but how to speak with your students. Being culturally sensitive can mean the difference between a successful or disastrous school year, indeed.
- Make lessons fun.
This one almost seems like a no-brainer. But, you’d also be surprised as to how many teachers don’t really explore this theme when designing and implementing lessons. One question you should always ask yourself before you finish lesson planning is, “Will this be fun for the students?” If you question whether they will get it, then maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board. It may increase your time of lesson planning, but it’ll be ten times more worth it when you can get a small spark out of your students’ desire to get excited about learning.
Sometimes, you might even be pleasantly surprised to see students having fun, unintentionally. That’s completely okay. Just let the magic happen and be glad that they’re getting excited in general.
- Reflect on your practice every day.
Teaching was never meant to be a linear profession. In accounting, the numbers match up according to record keeping and other strategies, mathematically. Teaching has rollercoasters of lesson planning, standardized testing, district and state mandates and so much more. For many, it’s hard to keep up with on top of all the grading and difference you’re supposed to be making in these students lives, right?
The important thing to keep in mind is that after every lesson, whether deemed effective or not, you should reflect on the process and results. Reflecting helps you determine areas of strength and improvement. As the population of your audience continues to change, it’s key that you also follow suit. Reflective practices are essential to become a stronger and effective teacher.
Students, regardless of where they come from or their academic motivation, have the ability to get excited about learning. It may take a little more time with particular students than others, but it’s not entirely impossible. A strong and mindful educator knows the importance of getting to know his or her students and creating masterful lessons around that regard. Most importantly, a great teacher takes the time to examine his or her own teaching practice and makes changes to accommodate the needs of the students. Before looking to students as being the problem, teachers must dive deeper into the potential root issue. From there, true teaching and learning can really take place and result in students being engaged.