Have you ever let go while teaching?
Have you ever been uncomfortable in your classroom on purpose?
You ever got those butterflies in your stomach, because you are not sure what you are about to do will be awesome or a complete and total failure?
Have you stepped out of your comfort zone so far you can’t see where the comfort zone was?
I pose those questions for a reason. If you are not stretching yourself as a teacher, or being an example of a risk taker to your students, then how do you expect your students to do the same? Our students need to see us trying new things. If they work then celebrate. If it doesn’t work then celebrate the effort, then adjust it to make it work. The climate of risk taking, and the idea that it’s okay to try new things is an important aspect of your classroom.
I teach gifted students in the 7th and 8th grade. They come with their own personalities and peculiars. I have students who are perfectionists; I some students who are stubborn; I have some students who are leaders, and some are followers; and I have some students who have some issues with organization. Not only do they have those issues add in puberty, and interest in the opposite sex. Middle schoolers can be a very difficult age group, but what I have found in my 14 years of teaching is the tone and climate you make in your classroom can change students whole personality. Every wonder why some students will do anything and everything for some teachers, and for other teachers getting that same student do work or participate is like pulling teeth regardless of abilities.
Tone and climate is some of the most important unwritten aspects of your classroom. It’s more important that your rules and behavior management system of your classroom. If tone and climate are clearly demonstrated, and expectations are clearly communicated, then the rest of your classroom rules and routines will follow right behind in line.
The tone and climate you set in your classroom is a reflection of you, and what you think is important. Looking at my classroom, my students know that when they come into my classroom, I am expecting them to do their best. Not only that, but I want them to explore, and try something new with every project they complete. I only have my students one day a week for 5 hours. So I try to make the most of it. I try to foster the idea that its okay to fail while doing something brand new and out of your comfort zone. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. My students know when I am teaching them, and I don’t like how I’m presenting my material. I will change, or do something that will make it seem better. My students have seen me fail. For gifted students having the failure is not an option is common. I remind my students that in the classroom doing something new is the place to fail. That’s what education is all about. Don’t get me wrong, gifted students hate to fail. Many have to have their work done perfectly in their eyes. It’s all about tone and climate.
How to be uncomfortable can come in different ways. For me, being uncomfortable is trying new things. I try to deliver the material to students in different ways to get them engaged. I will use props, or jokes, or stories in the delivery. Sometimes I will try a new technique that saw on Twitter, or read in book, blog or magazine. Sometimes I will use a new technology app or website that my students may use later on. If I fail, then I let my students see it. I don’t hide it. I let my students see my failures and my successes. It’s all part of education.
Now, don’t go and get any ideas about wondering if I am a professional climate and tone setter, because I am not. I try to stretch my self. It’s not normal. It’s not easy. I have to work at it. I read a great book recently that made me really think about stretching and challenging myself. Its Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. In his book he often talks about taking risks and how to get your students more engaged. I would recommend it everyone.
What are you doing to stretch yourself and your students?