Transforming your classroom from one of forgettable mundane lessons to one still being spoken about at a 30 year reunion for being exemplary.
We have all had those classes. You know, the ones where the teacher comes in, tells you what to read, what problems to do, might discuss the problems at the end of the day, and tells you when the test is. How much do you remember from that class? Probably very little to nothing.
We don’t want to be that teacher. They’re boring! But if most of what we have experienced is the same classic rotation of read, assign, discuss, test, and move on, how are we supposed to know how to do any different?
How do we become exemplary?!
First lets look at one teacher who was recognized for his exemplary work:
Congrats to our outstanding science teacher, Mr. Conniff, for being our Jaguar of the Week! Our AVID Coordinator chose him because he is an innovative, passionate, diligent teacher and is also a committed AVID Site Team Member! @ocpsnews @avid4college @AvidSoutheast @AdvancedOCPS pic.twitter.com/OjdWB2XoWo— Roberto Clemente Middle School (@RCMS_OCPS) September 26, 2019
What can we gain from teachers like Mr. Conniff and others who have shown extraordinary practices? They all tend to follow a form of teaching focused on the Emotional Connection of content/lessons to the students.
How do we make Emotional Connections?
- interactive: hands-on, minds-on
- leave the classroom, go outside, to the gym, in the hall, get up and out
- bring science to life; relate to current events, to your student’s lives
- let your students lead the way
- work with meaning (none of us like doing work jsut for the heck of it)
- long term projects
- connect with experts in the field
- readings more memorable than a textbook
- open-ended projects that allow the student to follow their interests
- recognizing that your kids are more than just students: connect with guardians, support them beyond the classroom
Alrighty, so we’re getting the idea of what stands out to us as exemplary, but how do we actually do it? Here are what some teachers have done:
- Simulation: Glacier moving down a hill causing erosion. Take a block of ice with pieces of gravel frozen inside, set it on a baking sheet, and allow students to create the bed of the pan and the angle at which to put the pan to allow the glacier to move down. Allow them time to hypothesize what will happen and to take observations throughout the day.
- Guardians: Weekend interactive science kit. Include items necessary to have an interactive activity relating to what is being taught in class. Include questions to consider and basic foundational information. Help your students and their guardians connect about what they’re learning.
- Integration of Subjects: Long-term quarterly or semesterly projects where students are guided through designing, executing, writing about, and disseminating a research topic of their choosing.
- Outside: work with students to think about their own community and how topics of your classroom are involved. Walk around the school grounds asking students to look for connections to content. Include open conversation time with the ability to go on asking deeper connected questions, to think about projects incorporating what they are learning about and their community, etc.
- Diverge: Allow your students to diverge from the class plans en route to greater understanding and increased excitement about what they care about. Work to be responsive to your students’ needs each and every day.
To be exemplary you must know your student as more than just a student.
The teachers we remember are the teachers who saw us as more than a grade in their book, or another creature to have knowledge transferred.
They saw us as people and met us where we were at.
Slow down when needed, and go beyond the curriculum you see your students’ faces light up.
Work with your students’ individual circumstances and develop the curriculum around them instead of trying to force them to develop around your curriculum.
You cannot hope to be exemplary unless you invest in your students as a whole people.
Talk to your students, and ask them how their activities are going. Use those get-to-know-me sheets to incorporate interests into your instruction.