How many times have you seen a newspaper cartoon depict children trudging grim-faced to school-then dashing joyfully in the opposite direction six hours later? If you're a teacher, you may want to cry rather than laugh at that picture.
Now that widespread health concerns have normalized virtual learning and abrupt school closures, the world is paying more attention to kids who would rather be in school than not: because their homes are far from happy; because their families know all too well the disadvantages of being uneducated; because school is where all their friends are. But in well-off communities, conventional wisdom still says that education means hours each week listening (?) to input of no immediate interest-where hopefully the kids internalize enough to get high-paying jobs in a decade or two, so they can give all the advantages of life to their own kids.
Who will continue the cycle: years of boring school days, followed by decades in jobs that are interesting only for the income they generate.
Hopefully your teaching methods are more enlightened than the sit-and-listen image above. Whether your classroom is virtual or in-person, it should regularly implement all the following:
(Specific tips on all these elements are in our blog archives.)
Of course, not even the best-managed classroom can get it right every time. And you face extra challenges if your school administration, or the state educational association, insists you give the lion's share of attention to less interesting topics. Or if other adults in your students' lives are obsessed with worrisome current events.
Some ideas for coping with these challenges:
Stay confident in your own ability to make a difference, too. You've won half the battle when you go in expecting that the kids will enjoy learning-and when you're ready to enjoy the experience yourself!