Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Are You The Best Part Of A Student’s Day/

Yesterday is used a quote from an educator friend of mine that “I may be the best thing that happens in my students and my staff's lives that day. I can handle the other stuff. They come first.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot since Paul first tweeted it. Most computer science courses are electives which gives those teachers an edge. Their students selected to be there. But honestly I‘ve seen students turned off by that first computer science course as well. Done wrong any course can be painful. I’m of the opinion that learning should be fun. Not that a teacher’s job is to be an entertainer of course. They shouldn’t be torturers either!

Obviously you never want to sacrifice rigor (what ever that means) but you can create an environment in a classroom where students want to be there. I start with the smile. Yes I know the adage that “teachers shouldn't smile until after Christmas” but that is ridiculous. How can a student be happy to be in your class or even your presence if they don’t sense that you are happy to be in their presence?

I used to occasionally arrive at school in the morning grumpy. I am so not a morning person. This is an attitude that dooms one to failure so I worked to get out of it. What I liked to do was walk through the building saying “hi” to as many students as possible with as big a smile as possible. I do think some of the students thought (may still think) I was crazy. A lot of them started smiling back though. Simples are reinforcing. If someone smiles at you it is hard not to smile back. And when people smile back at you it lifts your spirits. Think of it as a positive feedback loop.

And yes I smiled in class too. I cared about my students. I still do and it gives me great joy to hear from my former students. I worked for a head of school who talk his teachers that they should all look for students they could relate to, that they could be more than a teacher to. He believed, and I agree, that every student in every school needs at least one teacher who they believe honestly cares for them.

A computer teacher runs into a lot of students who don’t fit the typical school model. Oh sure there are some jocks in computer science classes and some really good looking people in them as well. You don’t have to be a geek or a nerd to take computer science. Those students who are a bit geeky and who don’t quite fit in who are in computer science often look for a mentor/friend/person they can relate to in the computer science teacher.

Now sometimes the CS teacher teaches other things and maybe sees themselves as a math teacher roped into teaching a section of CS. They may already have their math geeks. And that is fine. But I hope they also keep an eye out for the CS geeks who aren’t math geeks. I for one was a computer geek without being a math geek. The two are most decidedly not equivalent!

The other thing that can make a course and a teacher the best part of a student’s day is freedom. Not license to do what ever they want. Make no mistake about it students want, need and even respect boundaries that are expressed clearly and maintained fairly. But some freedom to learn the things that interest them beyond the limits of the course. The freedom to make their projects truly their own. The freedom to go beyond what the teacher knows themselves.

In a class where the teacher respects their students students will usually respect the teacher in return. Mutual respect and a spirit of “let’s do this together” can support a lot of individual initiative and learning. A project that a student feels ownership of is a project that a student is more likely to want to work on.

I can remember students asking me “Mr. T do I really have to leave and go to my next class?” Of course they knew the answer was “Yes!” but you know that was an expression of the class being a highlight of their day. And why shouldn’t it be?

Are you or your class the best part of some student’s day? Not for every student – that’s an unattainable goal – but for at least one student? How does that happen for you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the saying - Smile it makes people wander what you are up to. But as I have an "Evil" smile it leaves no doubt with my students.. < Evil Smile>

Thanks for continuing to Blog for us Alfred!