Small changes can definitely make the difference in terms of supporting learners in any classroom. If you’re looking for a way to spice up that traditional classroom setting, here are some tidbits from my classroom to yours! These are my “5 Be’s”…
1. Be Creative
Just because the district provides a guide doesn’t mean that the “recipe” can’t be modified or changed. Being creative is about seeing beyond the black and white of your content and making it adaptable for diverse learners. What can you do differently to get class started? How can you take a worksheet of problems and turn it into an experience? How can you encourage students to dig deeper, communicate, collaborate, think critically and create?
How do you translate your love of your students and content into their love of learning?
2. Be Flexible
It annoys me to no end to hear teachers talk about laying the gauntlet on due dates and call it “real world”. My response to that is, have you ever negotiated with the electric company to pay a bill late? Maybe you haven’t but people do it often. I’m not saying to give kids until the end of time to turn in an assignment but my gosh, leave room for discussion for when things happen or when the kids gets entirely too stressed out to get everything done! Life is like that sometimes! Your flexibility can be the difference for a kid at a moment when they desperately need it.
Also, please stop “designating” applications for everything…especially middle to high school kids. If you focus on the outcome, you get to allow multiple pathways for kids to present what they have learned. That, my friends, is called CHOICE!
3. Be Passionate
Everything that I do is with a sense of focus so passionately intent on the goal that it’s contagious. I LOVED every lesson…even when I really didn’t. In math, it was easy to convey this because math, to me, is like a puzzle waiting to be solved. The thought of this gives me shivers of excitement! In my tech job, I get to share cool stuff that sparks wonder in kids!! The thought of that makes my eyes light up with excitement!
Let’s be real, it’s rare for a kid to beat down the algebra door to get it, but my room seemed to always full of kids that had to be forced out. The trick…be passionate about your KIDS first. Adore them until they feel it deep within. Care enough about them to demand the best from them even when they don’t want to. Care enough to refer back to “flexibility” and take the time needed..WHEN NEEDED…to address them in a way in which they hear and feel you.
I’ve been known to say this… “I will fight for you even if that means fighting YOU for YOU. Passion is not something that you can fake. However, when kids feel it, your classroom will be the one where kids WANT to be…regardless of what you teach.
4. Be Resourceful
This one is huge. Please know your content enough to understand how and where to redirect questioning when needed. It’s not about you understanding every single aspect but you must know more than enough to properly support your students. NEVER tell a kid…”go figure it out!” Guess what, if they knew how to do it, they would NOT have asked you. What you must be able to do is help students redirect their path. Be able to help them secure a learning plan and effectively use great questioning skills to get them there. Remember, it’s not about YOU being the single force of information. It’s about empowering students to research, process and problem solve.
5. Be Reflective
I know that I’ve said this many times but reflection has truly changed my practice. I always consider the good as well as the not so good and make purposeful plans to improve. That is how I learn. Reflection is also important for students. If one of our goals is to empower them to take ownership of their learning, we must encourage reflection.
Let me be clear, I’m not talking about “reflecting as a grade”. This is really about individual development and growth…teacher AND student. Focus on the growth…not the grade.