The cold and flu season is in full swing as I write this post. I’m desperately trying to avoid catching anything from my students with frequent hand washing, liberal use of Lysol and getting plenty of sleep. However, there is something that I would love for my students to catch from me…a love of learning. I plan to share this love through enthusiasm.
Excellence Through Enthusiasm
Have you ever taught a lesson and it was done with less than an enthusiastic endeavor by you? (C’mon…let’s be honest. We all have. I have a hard time getting excited about geography.) Were your students equally apathetic? Probably. If they began the lesson with any degree of excitement about learning, the teacher’s lack thereof acts like water on a small spark. As a teacher, I am daily reminded of how much influence I have on my students. Not just the schedule or the routines, but even – perhaps especially – over the emotional climate. Sure, I take responsibility for the physical arrangement of furniture, for the lessons taught and the homework assigned. But it doesn’t stop there. Dare to believe that your thoughts, attitudes and most especially your enthusiasm for learning can be transmitted to your students. Is this all it takes to inspire and motivate? Of course not, but I think it’s an important first step. Would any other strategy for improving student engagement work without an enthusiastic teacher? I just can’t see it happening.
Measure Your Enthusiasm
Want a quick, sure-fire method for analyzing your enthusiasm level? Well, I can think of a few. First, look at your students. Kids are mirrors, and their enthusiasm will be a reflection of yours. Another approach would be to ask a colleague to video tape a lesson. It wouldn’t have to be long, perhaps 10-15 minutes. Then…(gulp)…watch the video without the sound turned on. The old saying is that actions speak louder than words. What does the video say about your enthusiasm level?
What Does This Look Like in the Classroom?
I may not be (yet!) the teacher of excellence that I long to be, but I can absolutely teach with enthusiasm starting right now.
* Give yourself a pep talk. Psych yourself up with a little pre-lesson self-talk about your goal for this lesson. Some days are easier than others – true. On those days, my self-talk is more like a drill sergeant barking orders than a grandmother’s kind words of encouragement. Whatever day it is for you, speak those words to yourself as a reminder of the bigger picture.
* Take responsibility. You want to know the bottom-line truth? Ultimately I am responsible for my attitude. 100% responsible. Those words are much easier to say as an admonition to a student than they are as a convicting statement to myself, but it’s still no less the truth. Besides, once you accept this truth, you become empowered to do something about it!
* Sell it. I will remember that in my classroom I – Sally Camden – am the adult and my 23 students are the children. It’s the adult’s responsibility to be the grown-up and lead. I will ignore my headache, I will reject a grumpy attitude when the technology at school still doesn’t work after 10 work orders. I will continue on this journey of excellence and take the next step with enthusiasm.
Long division? Yay! Prepositional phrases? Sweet! Part of being a teacher is more than just imparting content knowledge, but also modeling a love of learning and being open to receiving the power of knowledge in one’s life. How will I teach with enthusiasm today…this week…and all throughout the school year? How will you?