Four Ways to Be Amazing to Your Students

I am not a huge movie buff, but I do like the adult-like comedy found in Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Monster’s Inc. But I think one of my favorites has to be the superhero adventures of The Incredibles. Great laughs. But there is one scene that my wife and I were talking about that we thought would make for a good post.AmazingThe scene involves the little neighbor boy who rides the tricycle. Bob (a.k.a. Mr. Incredible) notices the little boy staring at him for the second day in a row.

Bob: Well, what are YOU waiting for?
Little boy on tricycle: I don’t know. Something amazing, I guess.
Bob: Me too, kid.

Now I am not an educator who believes that our students have to be entertained because “that is just the age we live in.” And though I do advocate that a successful classroom experience is a partnership between the teacher and the students, the onus is clearly on me to own it to make for an amazing class.

I think it would be helpful to define what I mean by an amazing class. An amazing class in my opinion is simply one in which authentic learning is happening, where information marries with experience to create “Aha” moments with students.

Information by itself, without an intentional integration, can easily lead to disjointed learning, where students receive information without any idea of what makes it valuable, interesting, useful, or important. Or to put it another way: learning becomes compartmentalized.

And so, allow me to offer my two cents as to what I believe can give you more of those amazing classroom experiences.

  1. Be a scholarly reader. I am not saying for you to be reading more in your specific field because I assume that any teacher is doing that. But to have an amazing classroom, you must be filling your mind with research-based ideas. Reading about how to be an amazing teacher gives you power and tools in the classroom to understand and interpret what is going on…and then adapt for change.
  2. Love your students. And like them as well. Students will have learning impeded when they feel as if you are “there because you have to be.”
  3. Pursue a classroom climate that speaks to partnership, a “we” mentality, and safety to not have to be perfect. Maryellen Weimer speaks much to this dynamic in her blog and in her books. Nobody is going to experience life-changing learning in a venue in which they do not feel welcome, valued, or involved.
  4. And finally, with every lesson prep, think “how can I actively involve my students in helping them make one key connection today?” Keep your educational tool belt full. Always have options. Every interaction is an opportunity for transformation.

Maybe I could change the original movie lines a bit:

Teacher: Well, what are YOU waiting for?
Student: I don’t know. Something amazing, I guess.
Teacher: Then you are in the right place.

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