Students enjoy learning when they can be successful.
Who wants to come to school each day, only to be told where they’re wrong and constantly reminded of their weaknesses? If that’s all your boss concentrated on in your work, would you want to be there for long? Provide whatever environment it takes to foster successful learning opportunities for every single student. Think about learning styles and working in strengths areas first. Once you build trust and confidence in learning, then you can move into areas of weakness.
Measure frustration levels carefully.
Students should often experience frustration when they’re working, especially in areas of strength. Get to know your students’ thresholds and support them through the truly tough parts. Giving up and walking away is not an option. Persistence through the frustration will be some of the best learning your students will ever experience with you.
Emotion is a powerful memory generator.
Be sure you’re setting the stage for the right emotions to start a project with, to work and learn through, and to end the project on. Students will always remember the events and teachers who provoked the most powerful emotions (don’t you?). Be sure you and the work experiences are remembered positively.
If you’re worried students aren’t working during their project work, there is a simple solution: get out of your chair and talk with them. Sit beside them.
At the end of the day, you should be very tired from shifting around the room.
Foster student-to-student mentorship and community trust.
One of the most powerful ways to create a community of trust is by helping students to rely on each other for assistance before running straight to you. When a student asks a question, find out who s/he has asked first. If three people have been consulted, directly answer the question asked and be sure that everyone in the class/group hears the answer. Remember, “As a teacher, I’m a resource, not THE source.”
Foster student-to-student mentorships.
I’m not talking about matching kids up with strangers and having them do some sort of artificial, out-of-context “team-building” or “trust” activity. Absolutely not. It’s much deeper and infinitely more complex.
Every single day in all actions, we should be promoting student-to-student mentorships by following the five tips above. Additionally, a very simple way to foster everyday mentorships is by asking students to point out each other’s strengths while working within group projects, both during the work and afterward during the presentation/reflection portions of the project. This way, students get to know who has what skills and expertise and will be able to call upon those peers later in other projects, both in and outside the classroom.
At first, complimenting each other will seem awkward because so much of society is focused on putting others down to make ourselves look better (look at TV sitcoms, teen Facebook pages, and some popular music). But when students begin to truly compliment each other’s strengths, they begin to look at one another in a new light. And they also begin to see themselves in a new light as well.
This strategy isn’t something that can be implemented or perfected overnight or even over a quarter. We’re spending time healing the wounds that society has torn lose in each of us. Unless we nurture that healing environment, we’re allowing what schooling continues to foster when we only work toward students’ weaknesses.
This strategy and the results are the icing on the cupcake of a trusting environment. It compels others to look at the strengths of their peers and allows them to call on each other for assistance in areas of strength and need. Each student is built-up in others’ eyes.
This is one of the most powerful LifePractices I’ve ever seen at work and I assure you that it does work.
Laugh and smile often.
Teachers simply don’t do this enough. Truly laugh from the belly. Laugh at a joke that’s actually not very funny. Laugh at yourself. And laugh because you’re having fun teaching.
We can and should all laugh multiple times every day.
Because if you can’t laugh, it’s time to go.
Want more? Well, I’m not surprised… (song reference, not ego)