What an exciting time of year. So much energy and promise and the spirit of possibility.
But, as one of my teacher friends put it, “it’s too bad it only lasts for a week or two.”
Well, with that attitude…
I kid. A lot of teachers just sorta expect the energy to fade after day one. But does it have to? Does student engagement necessarily have to drop after the first day? How can we keep our students wanting to come back to our classes again and again?
It’s so important to recognize that the things we do with students NOW are setting the tone for the rest of our time together. We all know that first impressions really matter!
My friend Mark teaches 4th grade phys ed, and has some great ideas about engaging students. He said, “The key is to set the tone. Get students excited about something on day one, and you can always leave them wanting more.”
He went on to describe his tactic:
Do you remember getting to play with the parachute? It’s the best thing when you’re in the fourth grade! Nothing gets my students more excited than when I walk out of the supply room with the parachute in my hands. It’s like magic!
So, on day one, you better believe I’m bringing out the parachute. They’re gonna have the time of their lives in that first class. After that, they look forward to coming to my class because they know there’s a chance it’s parachute day. And when they show up willingly, it’s easier to teach them new skills and ideas.
It’s so important recognize that the things we do with students now are setting the tone for the class. After all, we all know how long first impressions can last.
There's a great rule in presentation skills: Start strong! When we facilitate workshops, we strive to kick things off with something fun and energizing that helps students find a reason to care about the content. We’ve learned from our favourite teachers that before you can teach the subject, you have to build excitement for the subject!
So ask yourself:
What tone are you setting for your class?
How are you helping students care about the curriculum?
What can you do right now to inspire excitement for your classes?
Perhaps you can start your class with a game, or a demonstration, or even a performance! Maybe facilitate a conversation about the benefits of your class for students - not just in the future, but right now! Maybe encourage students to develop their own goals and questions for the class, or collaboratively create guidelines for technology use or rules of engagement for creative conversations.
Whatever you choose, share your enthusiasm and have fun. Your energy is contagious!
The Beanstalk Project is a group of entertainers-turned-educators with unconventional ideas about how to make education better.