What Do You Do That Makes Your Students Happy To Be In Your Class?

What do you do that makes your students happy to be in your class?  This question, in one form or another, has been cropping up a lot lately.  At first, I smugly thought of the jokes I make when I teach, the excitement I try to put into my voice, the happy smile I greet my students with in the morning and felt like I do a great job.

However, while I was out running, I did more thinking about this.  Running can be a very humbling experience.  You’re out there with nothing but your thoughts for mile after mile.  It’s hard not to be faced with uncomfortable truths out there on the lonely road.  So, anyway, as I was trudging along, it occurred to me that even though I try to be entertaining, my students probably don’t look forward to my class.  They probably don’t wake up in the morning, excited at the thought of another day learning how to find the main idea in a passage, or identify the transitive verbs in a sentence, or bubble in multiple choice answers related to vocabulary they are forced to learn.

Next, of course, I tried to convince myself that it’s “not my fault”.  It’s the curriculum I’m forced to teach.  We are currently following a very scripted curriculum, which involves a lot of repetition.  However, that seems like kind of a cop out.  That’s the easy road to take – blame factors outside your control.

It’s a sad day when you realize your students dread sitting in your classroom.  So, as my feet continued to pound the pavement, I considered the question as honestly as I could.  Unfortunately, I didn’t come up with the perfect solution.  However, I did  decide to address what I could control.  So, here are the ideas I’ve come up with, which I plan to implement immediately:

1) I will encourage more talking to each other.  While I do some of this, a lot of the textbook is me, standing up lecturing.  I am going to make a point of having the kids talk to each other, then share their ideas.

2) I will have great ideas written on the board.  Often, a student comes up with something really wonderful.  In the past, I would comment on what a great thought that was, then move on.  Now, my plan is to have the student write that thought on the board (or on the window – that seems like a fun thing!)  I will share this plan with my class, so they can help me spot the “great ideas”.

3) As the weather warms, I’ll look for times we can hold class outside.  Even if it’s just for the last half hour as they work on grammar and writing, getting outside is always enjoyable.

4) I will ask my students for ideas.  This is the best idea yet.  My students ALWAYS have better ideas than I do.  So, I’ll go to the experts.  I’m sure they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how they wish class would go.  Maybe they will share some of those thoughts with me.

So, now I put this question to you (be hones!): What do you do that makes your students happy to be in your class?

One thought on “What Do You Do That Makes Your Students Happy To Be In Your Class?

  1. Emily C. says:

    I think the last one you mentioned is what has worked best for me. I let my students be involved in choices in my classroom, and that gives them some ownership over their day, which makes a middle schooler very happy. For example, one of my 8th graders brought in an article on exercise balls in the classroom as chairs instead of regular seats. Everyone loved the idea, so after checking with my principal, I surprised them one day with 6 exercise balls. They were amazed that I had taken one of their suggestions seriously- and it made them appreciate my classroom more (the exercise balls are a great motivator as well!).

    I am also a writing/grammar/literature teacher, and I try to switch things up occasionally by playing “mood music” when they are writing (usually movie soundtracks- something without words that helps them “feel” their writing), letting them move around the room to write in their own space, or turning out the lights and using a flashlight when we were reading Edgar Allen Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart.”

    The last thing that I do is make sure that I try to tie in life applications to what we are studying. We’ve been doing a lot of service projects this year in an effort to make my students feel like they are learning something that will help them make a difference in the world. When we studied persuasive writing and advertising techniques in 8th grade, I created an “Apprentice” style project for them- and they worked to raise money for a charity of their choice (more about that on my blog). We went and interviewed senior citizens about their memories when we did a project on “The Giver.”

    Overall, I think so far our efforts at creating an energetic, enthusiastic classroom environment have been successful- hopefully I can maintain it in the years ahead!

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