Why is it so difficult to connect with students today in the modern classroom? Why is their attention span so short? Why don’t they read the book? These are all common questions teachers should ask and reflect on as we hone our practice and find our way in the modern classroom.
I wanted to take some time to talk about 4 things that can make a difference in your own classroom that may or may not be recognized by credential programs or even the school you work at.
1. The connection: I believe the connection between the student teacher relationship is a special connection that cannot be easily replicated. Just because you are in the front of the classroom does not mean the students will instantly respect you or even pay attention. They need to know that you are truly working in their best interest and that you can actually relate to them. Many of them are
struggling as it could be a difficult time in their lives as they find their way to success at school, on the field, or even at home. I really try to be open about my own life which gives them a feeling that I am real and not some guy that came out of the womb desiring teach high school. That I have real struggles and failures in my own life even today. I talk a lot about what I do whether it be physically through sport or how I spend my time. The students enjoy knowing that you are a person and not a robot. Yes, the curriculum is important but the connection and the relationship is more important.
2. We all have stories to tell: The next secret to an amazing classroom experience is your ability to tell a good story. Students have always enjoyed a good story and will into the future. You can tell a story about your life or history as students are drawn to it. They love the adventure and the possibility that you could have done something so daring or crazy in your life. I like to take it a step further and tell stories within history. For example, the story of the Fall of the Bastille or the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Students really enjoy hearing about these things as it makes it more real to them which they may remember more anyway. If you take a minute and try to remember what your teachers said and did in high school I bet you cannot
remember much. I remember the stories and how I was treated. I do not remember much of the content, as
I thought it was boring and irrelevant.
3. Respect: My third secret to having an unbelievable time in the classroom is to treat each student with respect. The kids in our classrooms are young adults and deserve to be respected. If you respect them they are more likely to respect you. I cannot tell you how many times students have come to me defeated because a teacher had said or done something that totally defeated them. If we can remember that these are the future of our great country and that we are training them to be future spouses, employees and parents they may treat us in the same way.
4. Energy: Probably the most underrated of all the 5 things I am discussing in this post. Your energy is directly related to the energy of the students. If you come into a lesson with no excitement or energy they will give that same energy right back to you as they feed off of what you bring to the class. I work hard at being in a good mood with good energy for the day as I take on the rigor of teaching 7-8 classes throughout my typical day. How can you increase your energy if you feel like you are getting older and not feeling like you can bring your A game to the table? I think what you eat and how much you sleep have a direct effect on how you feel. I know that I always eat a really good breakfast and try to get 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night. I know this might sound trivial but it really can have a big impact on how your day goes.
5. Get Outside the classroom and do something: If you are looking for a great way to connect that provides you with opportunities to do all things I discussed above get out and do stuff with your students. I have traveled all over the US with students: New York (twice), Hawaii (twice), UCSB, San Luis Obispo, Bakersfield (16 times) , San Francisco (16 times), UCI Ropes course, and many other really cool trips. This is probably the best way to get to know them and connect with students. Being outside the classroom takes down a bit of the stress and work that is usually given within the classroom. I can even begin to tell you all the cool amazing places I have been with students either through coaching or participating in a specialized program. It is the best way to accomplish the above goals while having an amazing time with your students.
These couple of tips have really worked for me throughout my career and I still to this day enjoy my job and hanging with the unbelievable students that I get to hang with. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out as I am trying to help teachers to be able to engage students through the use of my curriculum in the classroom. Feel free to check out my store or email as I am looking to helpful in any way I can.