The Starting Point
Educators know that learning is about more than intellectual development. It’s about igniting curiosity, sparking emotions that lead to inquisitiveness, and in creating an interest, hopefully excitement, about the whole process. This is especially so for teens, who are less likely to involve themselves in things they don’t care about, sometimes to the point of apathy. Wouldn’t it be great if we could magically achieve this? Teenagers wouldn’t fall for any tricks, though. They’re perceptive, seasoned students and know authenticity when they see it.
So, how do you spark their curiosity and make them care? Answer: Create not just a class, but an experience they value and want to be a part of. And it’s reasonably simple to do, you won’t need magic or tricks. Plato said it best over two thousand years ago when he explained that “all learning has an emotional base.” Understanding what he meant is truly powerful. Let’s dig deeper and make them work personally for you.
The Key Ingredient – Is You
To tap in to this emotional base, start by behaving in such a way that generates the feeling of a friendly environment where all students (not just the eager ones) realize – they can perceive – that they are respected and a person of value in your class. Yours is a room where they won’t be intimidated or embarrassed when they take learning risks. They can feel you believe every last one of them has a talent and value to offer the class community. That each person is an integral part of your community. You can’t just say it, or put up a poster expressing it (though that’s a helpful, supportive strategy). These seasoned learners use the measuring stick of how you prove it … every day.
How do you prove this is the few moments you have with them each day? It’s not so much what you do, but how you do it. Would you like a list? Of course you would – you’re a teacher. So, at the bottom of this page is a list which starts with some basics and includes additional space for you to add what’s authentic for you.
Some Final Thoughts
Everyday is certainly not a walk in the park for anyone and certainly not for teachers, regardless of our strategies. We have emotions, good days and bad days, along with basic life stress and worries. With that being said, our attitude can make it easier on ourselves and our students. Keep in mind that you set the behavioral bar in your class. If you make the effort to come across as positive and reasonably cheerful as you interact with your students, it rubs off. You can positively impact the mood of individual students and, collectively, the culture of the class. Modeling respect and integrity sends a deeper message because your students look to you to know how to act, not only in your class, but in other social situations.
So … your behavior isn’t about your own experiences and emotions, it’s about your students seeing you as strong, steady, and someone they can trust to create a safe, stable, and nurturing space for them. Each and every day. The bottom line is that connecting with students is your job, not an aspect of your personal life. When you emanate an excitement about being with these very valuable individuals, you infuse the learning space with positivity, enthusiasm and, at times, contagious joy.
And now – let’s get to your personalized plan of specific ways you will create this exciting, authentic, and valuable experience. Use it digitally or print and write your ideas. Customize it just so it works for you and your students!