Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Energy

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As much as you want to ignore it, kids will tell you which teachers are good and which teacher they can scam.  I often hear arguments that students will only pick the teachers that are “easy” as the teachers that are the best.  Believe it or not, students (at least upper classmen in high school) are pretty dang honest when it comes to which teachers give them the goods. 

When I hear about a teacher being praised, I ask the students why they like him/her so much.  Hell, why not?  Obviously those teachers are doing something right and it would be foolish not to try and incorporate their successes in the classroom.  The same names usually appear over and over again, and the reasons are actually pretty simple:

1.  I actually learn something in the class.

2.  The teacher seems to really care.

3.  The teacher is energetic.

The third one is so important and it is often overlooked by those in the credential program.  Nobody warns you about the October Blues and how students will respond better if you keep the energy up.  In fact, students will often overlook errors in your teaching when you show energy and passion in what you are doing.  Think about it this way, for every 10 days of energetic teaching, the kids will actually give a break when you might be “off”.  While other teachers begin to slide in the level of interest with the students after the first month passes (or in our case, when Homecoming ends), teachers that maintain the rigor and consistent interest are rewarded with a year’s worth of respect and hard working kids. 

Here’s a hint for rookie teachers though, the kids won’t acknowledge it until later.  And if you are brand new at the school, you might not get it acknowledged until next year.  That’s the tough part of maintaining energy, the ability to sustain it when the kids seem bored, but are paying attention.  I’ve occasionally asked a student, “You ok?”, and the student will sometimes answer in a perplexed manner, “Yeah, why?”. 

“Well, you just seem kind of down and out of it today.”

“No, I’ve got it all.  This is actually my favorite class.  If it wasn’t for this class, I wouldn’t be here today.”

You have to smile after a comment like that, especially if it’s during the doldrums of October or the nasty stretch of early Spring. 

So rookie teachers need to remember that energy gets you through a lot of hassle, and it’s good for students.  Fight through the tired and the bad environment and the negative publicity, and bring the energy to the four walls in which you teach.           

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