10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Interested?

Five years ago, I wrote a series of seven articles called “Questions That Will Save Your Career” that still remain among the most visited articles on this site. When I wrote those, I had successfully completed my 5th year in education. This summer, after 10 years, I am revisiting some of these older concepts. Today, I revisit How Do I Keep My Students Interested?

  1. How Do I Keep My Students Quiet?
  2. How Do I Keep My Students Engaged?
  3. How Do I Keep My Students Interested?
  4. How Do I Keep My Students Learning?
  5. How Do I Keep My Students Away From Me?
  6. How Do I Keep My School Administration Happy?
  7. How Do I Keep My Sanity?
  8. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Quiet?
  9. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Engaged?
  10. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Interested?
  11. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Learning?
  12. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Students Away From Me?
  13. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My School Administration Happy?
  14. 10 Years of Teaching: How Do I Keep My Sanity?

Engagement is not a measure of interest
So yesterday, we investigated some means of differentiating instruction so that the students all stay engaged in the learning process. But it’s interesting to note that the mere fact that someone is actively involved in the process does not mean they have even the slightest level of interest. So how do you keep that level of interest…or even get it in the first place.

Passion
My friend Angela Maiers has co-authored a book on the subject of Passion in the classroom called The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching & Learning. Lisa Cooley recently wrote a series of articles on Angela’s website about the place that passion has in the classroom. I contend that passionate teachers are infectiously interested in their subject matter so much so that the students’ curiosity is piqued. Read Lisa’s entire series here:

  1. Passion Solves Problems #1:  First in a series
  2. Passion Solves Problems #2: Kids don’t want to learn
  3. Passion Solves Problems #3: Kids just aren’t motivated
  4. Passion Solves Problems #4: We can’t trust kids to lead themselves where they need to go
  5. Passion Solves Problems #5: Kids can’t behave themselves

So what is passion?
Dictionary.com defines passion as “any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.” The antonym of passion is apathy.

What is a passionate teacher?
A passionate teacher is the polar opposite of an apathetic teacher. A passionate teacher is one teaches the subject matter with powerful and compelling emotion. A passionate teacher is a teacher who flat out loves teaching and one who demonstrates to his students that he loves the subject that he is teaching. Or she. A passionate teacher who loves going to work day in and day out…and the students can tell!

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Passion is contagious
If you want to the first of passion to be obvious in all that you do, you must kindle the spark of passion and let it consume you. You must take some key steps:

  1. Pursue passionate people
    Negative people suck the passion out of everything they touch. They are like a black hole for despair. When you see them and ask them how they’re doing, it’s never “Fantastic” or “Great” but there is always some problem to discuss and no solution in sight. You know the type:”This administration is the source of my problems.”
    “Another day, another dollar.”
    “Thank God it’s Friday!” “Oh God, it’s Monday!”
    “These kids….”
  2. Lose the loser language
    “I can’t” has no place in the vocabulary of an awesome teacher like you. “It’s not my fault and there’s nothing I can do about it,” is victim language. You can always do something about it, even if that something is to simply SHUT UPand do your job as well as you possibly can.And to answer the argument some of you are already thinking, this isn’t pandering to administrators who are out of control, it’s being a role model of character for your students. Or else, the next time they complain about something you ask them to do, remember they are merely doing what you have taught them to do.
  3. Return to the source of your passion
    I’m going out on a limb here and assuming you didn’t go into teaching because you wanted to fill out more paperwork. Or because you wanted to jump through hoops and the circus jobs were just too unstable. And I’m pretty sure it’s not because you like arguing with kids either. No, I’m guessing you got into teaching because you were passionate about something. If that’s kids or math or astronomy or photography or volleyball or yearbook design or orchestra competition, then get back to that place. Return to your source of passion and remind yourself why you chose this life in the first place.

Sometimes we have passions that have nothing to do with our subject area. It’s okay to share those too from time to time! This year I went for a few months where I got lame jokes and riddles off of Laffy Taffy wrappers or wherever and shared them at least twice a week with most of my classes. Before long, I had students coming up to me before school and telling me new riddles. My favorite?

Q: How do you wake up Lady Gaga?
A: Poke her face

Don’t worry if you don’t get that. She has a song called “Poker Face” and the kids will laugh. Try it.

READ  How Do I Keep My Students Away From Me? (4 Tips To Establish Boundaries)

The other area of passion that I have shared with my students lately has been my (totally unexpected) love affair with running. I’ve found a number of correlations between my pursuit of “running” and my students’ pursuit of learning how to play a musical instrument. Plus they get a kick out the thought of a fat old guy “running” 10 miles. But when I talk about it, I talk with such passion.

So the next time you walk into a classroom, show off your passion for whatever. See if the kids don’t start to amaze you once again.

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

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