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?