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!