This week, I had the pleasure to start blogging with a brilliant team of inspiring educators for Richmond ‘ s blog. As it is the beginning of the school year in the south hemisphere, I thought that talking about the first connections we make with students in class on the first days is a crucial issue to how our school year will unfold. So, I’ve explored the idea I borrowed from Pam Slim of living a full color, full contact life as an educator. A motto that carries in itself everything that I see in every outstanding professional I encounter, that generosity of sharing, being totally there in the moment, listening to the signs of our learners (are they motivated? are they bored? Is he OK?), embracing teaching with our hearts and souls, for educating really takes much of us and pours our experiences, history, expertise, and weaknesses in our classes, in who we are as educators, in the way we conduct the activities and mentor learners.
All that leads to how we plan our start, the first encounter with awaiting minds who don’t have a clue what is going to happen in the first class and bring as much anxiety and anticipation as we do. To live up these expectations and even surprise our learners, we need to care, choose, prepare for awakening, surprise, enjoyment, and only one with this full color, full contact motto we will overcome the initial trenches. More frequently than not I’ve seen the anticipatory expectations of students fade in disillusion on day one. At home, I overhear my kids’ conversations about the cool and uncool teachers. Generally the cool, colorful side leans towards the teachers who have taken time to connect, to tell a story, to know about their students, to empathize, basically. While others, the boring and even unpleasant teachers, were the ones who started with rules, do’s and dont’s, lacking sense of humor oreven an eye or an ear to listen to the ones around. I’m not saying, though, that the educators need to be jokers, funny, smiley all the time. Not really! What I’m saying is that within our own personality and style, we need to find our very personal ways to empathize and hook the minds of our learners to learning.
And I guess that just because I’m focusing on this issue these past days, as I started teaching a class and also am trying to find ways to help the other teachers I work with, I’ve come across incredible posts that might give you a concrete clue of what I am talking about. Clarissa, a dear friend and co-worker, splashes excitement in her post about her tech collage icebreaker with her teen students in her post Starting Afresh with iPads in the Classroom. Dani Lyra, in all her excitement of trying new ideas in the classroom, explores the use of video animations as icebreakers. In the Learner Coaching ELT blog, you’ll find a great idea to motivate your students, especially teens in Clare Sheppard’s post Teens and Coaching.
So, the next time you start your class, be it the first day or throughout the semester ,think of icebreakers not as just one more activity, but as a springboard for true connections in full color for you and your learners. I’m sure your classes and your motivation to teach will never be the same!
Do you have any other tips to connect with, empathize and motivate you and your learners?
More on the subject: