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If you have read many of my previous blog posts, you'll know that I often share ideas for motivating/inspiring students and for teaching them important life lessons. Here are a few examples of the posts to which I am referring:

When I share strategies like these with other educators I tend to receive feedback indicating that teachers like the idea of sharing in this manner with students. I often also receive feedback that many teachers are uncomfortable doing so. I think there is a natural fear on the part of many teachers that if they open up and make themselves vulnerable outside of the typical content area, the students might reject them. It is much safer to stay behind the wall of familiarity created by the content.

Parker Palmer in The Courage to Teach describes this scenario. Essentially the courage to teach is the courage to go beyond our safety zone and lift kids up with our enthusiasm. We need to be vulnerable and we need to have the courage to occasionally look "dumb" or "corny" in front of kids. We also need to realize that what our students need the most is our wisdom about life. They need to be inspired. They need to know we care about more than content. They need our help learning how to think about life, goals, the future, etc. This is important stuff. It's too important to ONLY leave up to the "teachable moment". Instead, we must CREATE TEACHABLE MOMENTS very intentionally.

So here's my advice for those of you who have some fear or discomfort about introducing life lessons into the classroom:
YOU GOTTA DO IT MORE THAN ONCE!
The first time will be the hardest. The kids might wonder what you're up to. They might not respond. They might even think you're off your rocker - BUT STICK WITH IT! I would recommend trying to do a very intentionally motivating activity approximately once a week. Take a look at those blogs listed at the top of the page. There are enough ideas there to just about fill up a school year. Don't be discouraged if they don't respond right away. Be genuine. Be enthusiastic. Be persistent. Be open. Be honest. Be vulnerable. The kids will come around and end up looking forward to these opportunities.

But don't just try it once or twice during the school year. It's too easy for the students to overlook your efforts. And it's too easy for you to stop because it's not the most natural. Practice it and it will become natural. What an exciting thing it is to be an inspiration in the life of a young person!

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Comment by Scott Habeeb on April 12, 2010 at 10:35am
Good point, Sandra. Honest "dorkiness" is endearing if the teacher is comfortable in his or her own skin. In the Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer states, "Authority is granted to people who are perceived as authoring their own words, their own actions, their own lives, rather than playing a scripted role at great remove from their own hearts."
Comment by Sandra Duncan on April 12, 2010 at 10:20am
Re: Wes' comment--
You alluded to something very important on this topic, and that is that your students now know that your open-ness is "part of your character". Kids this age are pretty savvy and they can quickly see through something disingenuous. They recognize if there is a "technique" being used to manipulate them. It has been my experience that, no matter how awkward my attempts at establishing relationships might be, the kids will forgive me and reciprocate because they sense that my efforts are genuine. Some of them even find my dorkiness endearing!
Comment by Scott Habeeb on April 8, 2010 at 12:25pm
Excellent point, Wes. Thanks for sharing and for loving students!
Comment by Wes Lester on April 8, 2010 at 12:15pm
Early in my career I never used the word "love". I did feel uncomfortable saying that because it was more difficult for me to really understand the positive impact that I could have on my students. As I have grown as a teacher and a father of my own children I now use the word frequently and my students don't see it as corny and I don't feel dumb because I have conditioned them to hearing and they know that is part of my character. If I had waited until the middle of the year and then out of the blue told a student that I love them then there would be a very strange or maybe even adverse reaction. I share this to reinforce the statement that one must do these types of things much more than once - in fact I would say that sharing oneself, being vulnerable, and seeking to inspire in your own way must be routine.

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