TEACHING STUDENTS TO LOVE SCHOOL
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.
A Class Worth Enjoying
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:
- Opportunities for students to ask questions and express opinions
- Hands-on activities, both individual and team-oriented
- Time to get up and move around
- Long-term vision: clarity on how today’s lessons will prove useful in adulthood
- Mutual all-around understanding (and respect) for each individual’s dreams and abilities
(Specific tips on all these elements are in our blog archives.)
Handling a Dull Subject (or a Bad Day)
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:
- Even if your district is anti-art or anti-recess, find ways to implement creativity and physical activity into class routine. You could call a run-in-place break every twenty minutes, or let students add illustrative doodles to tests and essays.
- Let the kids share their own suggestions for making a topic (or class in general) more interesting. You could even hold weekly brainstorming sessions to vote on new ideas.
- Cultivate an optimistic atmosphere: Hang cheerful decorations. Smile at everyone (even behind a protective face mask, a smile comes through in your eyes, gestures, and voice; and make sure to choose smiley emoticons or other cheerful images for your mask fabrics). Always focus on the good in the present, speak of the future in positive terms, and encourage self-confidence: you want the next generation to grow up believing there’s hope for the world and that they will personally make the difference.
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!