GETTING STUDENTS OUT OF YOUR CLASS: HOW TO HELP KIDS MOVE FORWARD
Wise parents make a point of working themselves out of a job: actively influencing their children to grow into mature, independent adults who don’t need “parenting.” The teacher’s mission is similar: help kids master essential skills and move on to greater challenges. Whatever your school’s grade-to-grade (or level-to-level) promotion criteria, you as teacher hold primary responsibility for encouraging your students to advance.
Keep Your Teaching Approach Flexible
You don’t have to design a separate syllabus for every student: but do purge your attitude of any idea that “There’s one right way to learn, and there’s something wrong with any student who can’t get with the program.” There will always be unconventionally designed brains in any group.
When you create your initial schedule for each term, realize it will evolve in real life as you become familiar with each student’s natural abilities and learning approach. Be prepared to make adaptations as you go.
Respect All Your Students
You, as well as the kids, have a natural learning/communications style and personal strengths/weaknesses—and likely find it easiest to get along with people who are like you (in positive aspects, at least). Watch yourself carefully lest you hear rudeness where none was intended, or get impatient with someone who can’t grasp what’s “obvious” (to you). Take the attitude that every student is well-intentioned and eager to learn; and if you’re having difficulties with any individual, take the time to explore (through direct conversation if possible) other ways you might encourage them to participate.
Also, don’t take an “I’m in charge and won’t tolerate being questioned” attitude toward the class as a whole. You, as well as your students, have things to learn and progress to make. Don’t be afraid to let the kids teach you!
Emphasize a Life of Ongoing Progress
Many people see life as a timeline of, “First you get a college degree, then you work at the same job for four or five decades, then you retire.” Not much sense of purpose there. Small wonder people fall into a lifestyle of doing just enough to get by and living for the weekends.
You can cultivate a better idea in your students’ minds—the idea that life is a glorious adventure of ever higher learning and growing—if you:
- Encourage discussions and projects centered on “what I want to be when I grow up,” and how what students are currently learning can lead there. (Kids always dream of glamorous and idealistic careers. Direct those dreams toward real-life possibilities, before anyone gets brainwashed into believing that only high earnings and job “security” count.)
- When you study the lives of great achievers, emphasize ways they kept improving after achieving “success” (and, if applicable, things they’re currently working on).
- Let everyone know you’re still learning and growing. Talk about courses you’re taking and books you’re reading; share recent experiences that taught you something; invite the kids to demonstrate skills you may not have heard of. Remember, you set everyone an example that can endure long after they graduate!