I’ve been on the student-side of the
prison fence for about 17 years now. I’m well aware of the great teachers and scholars and the ones where I spent most of the class period deeply distraught by how they obtained their certification. As a student, it’s easy to get sucked into the notion that teachers spend their entire free time conjuring up classroom activities to activate our inner nap-time, bring up embarrassing childhood stories, or play a wild guessing game of “what’s the point?”.
From my education on…well,educating and from my experience as the student and the teacher, here are my tips to make your classroom less dull and more about functional learning:
Steer Clear of the Cookie Cutter
It’s tempting, especially within the first few weeks of class, to categorize students by grade and what classes you assume they’ve taken, and then go from there. Consider yourself warned; this is an excellent set-up for the most loathed and useless student assignments: the busy work. Sure, sometimes you’ll do it just to give them something. But when you look at your teaching in real time, you’ll realize that you don’t have a lot of time. Plan wisely. Recognize learning types. Don’t succumb to the dullness of mundane activities. They don’t benefit your students and they don’t benefit you.
Leave Wild to the Thornberrys
Queue corny ’90s joke. My inner nerd-child couldn’t resist. Classroom discussions, in my opinion, are one of the best learning tools because people can learn from each other. It has a natural flow. However, avoid getting side-tract by the multitude of tasks to accomplish. Classroom discussions can go from tame to the San Diego Zoo in no time flat. Manage the class, and add to the discussions, by taking a few laps around the classroom. Join in! Some of my favorite classroom moments are when I get to hear what my teacher thinks of the topic. It’ll be smashing! (You’re right; I have no willpower. The only shame I have for the ’90s are those overalls.)
Timing is Everything
Relaxing your structure doesn’t mean throwing away the lesson plan. Speaking from experience, time flies when the classroom is rolling. The timetable is an excellent tool to manage a classroom that is more on a free-flow learning plan. If you think you don’t need one, I think you should re-evaluate your goals and do a mock run in your head. I can guarantee you’ll be looking at the clock.
Observe and Report
As in life, it’s essential that we take time to step back and assess if our actions are moving us towards the goal. Did that classroom activity go in the right direction or was it too broad? Did the students nail that homework assignment or were they all over the board? Was the test truly testing the students’ abilities or what they could cram into a study session? These are all factors that grade you during the teaching process. If you want to be a great educator, take the time to learn from your hits and misses.
Let me know what you’ve learned as a teacher and a student! What made your favorite teacher so great? As always, you can find me on Pinterest taking up your entire feed with my lack of a social life. There’s your daily ego boost. Till next time!