A Matter of Priorities
During my first two years of teaching, I discovered that I had a whole lot of information, but the students just weren’t listening to me or learning from me. It is not, mind you, because I was giving them wrong information. It was, however, because I had placed the priorities in the wrong order. When we have the proper perspective, we will end up teaching far more than we ever imagined we might teach.
When I first got into the business of education, my priority was to educate children. So my philosophy could be summarized as:
When we have the proper perspective, we will end up teaching far more than we ever imagined we might teach.Not bad, but it didn’t work. There was a lot lacking.
“Nobody cares what you know until they know you care”
The reason I wasn’t impacting them was because I didn’t have a friendship with them. Of course! “Nobody cares what you know until they know you care.” Although I knew it and had heard it many times, I misunderstood. My understanding was that this meant I was to primarily focus on building (appropriate) relationships with the students, and then giving them all sorts of information. So my priorities were something like:
Now that is good, but there were a lot of things missing from that strategy.
“Why should we listen?”
When children know what they are supposed to do, they will do it most of the time. When they know why they are supposed to do it, they will do it more often. When they buy into it and really want to do it, they will do it every time. So the problem is more than simply getting them to understand why they are supposed to follow directions. However, if you are only able to get to that point and make sure they understand what to do and why to do it, you are way ahead of the game. But if we simply stop there, we are missing out on so much more.
As a side note, I would like to add that most of the time we find ourselves getting mad at people, it is because they are doing something they were not specifically instructed to not do. This is true, especially in the case of kids in a classroom. I still find myself doing that…getting upset at kids for acting like kids when I didn’t tell them specifically not to. Before we yell at them for tracking dirt into our room, we better make completely sure we have specifically told them to wipe their feet before they come in here. Or else, we are punishing them for our own stupidity!
Motivation comes from where?
Motivation is the result of the first two keys interacting. The first is absolutely essential. But it only comes after the philosophical foundation is in place. We will look at the five keys to educating people in order and address the top three as one unit, since they actually are all interdependent.
Now what does this all mean?
To radiate is simply to give off a warmth. That comes from loving what you do. But, as I hinted before, you cannot truly love what you do until all of the components are in place. Then it will become a self-recharging cycle.
In my first two years of teaching, I would go home at nights and cry. It made me miserable. Oh yes, I loved the fact that I was a teacher, but I didn’t love the fact that I was not impacting lives the way I had once envisioned that I might. After my understanding of classroom management changed, I began to see results. I began to see the proverbial light bulbs coming on and learning began to ensue. It was, and still is, a most incredible feeling. To know that they know something now that they did not know before. They have a skill now that they didn’t enter the school year with. What an awesome thing!
But why entertain?
Have you ever heard Ben Stein? He is incredibly funny and a wonderful financial writer. But for the uninitiated, his delivery is relatively lacking in energy. “Dynamic Speaker” would not be an appropriate description for him. When you are working with a large group of children, regardless of age (even ten five-year-olds would be a large group), then you must be able to make them enjoy the time they spend with you, or else run the risk of having them blow you and the subject matter off completely. Anecdotal evidence abounds (here, here, etc.) as well a scientific research that confirms the positive learning benefits of being in a good mood.
I want to clarify that our role as educators is not to entertain children at the expense of instructing them. Simply that while we are instructing, we can use entertaining methods of delivery. Keep in mind that children running out of your classroom as soon as the bells rings is not a good sign.
So how did you say we motive them?
Motivation comes from a wide variety of sources, but one of the greatest is simply loving what you do. That comes after you are able to get them quiet, which has a lot to do with classroom management techniques. We’ll discuss those more later.