Sunday, November 24, 2019

Kim Frencken: Negative attitudes can dampen student enthusiasm

I've heard teachers complaining about their students lack of excitement. And in the same breath, they admit that they don't blame them. Has a colleague ever shared that her students just weren't that interested in ______? Or maybe it was you? Maybe your kids have been less than enthused about a subject in your class.

Did you ever think that maybe it was you? Our enthusiasm, or lack of it, rubs off on our kids. I've been guilty of conveying my personal feelings about a subject or topic, and I've let my feelings show without much effort in covering them up.

The truth is.... some subjects are more fun to teach than others. At least for me. I plowed through diagramming sentences. It brought back too many painful memories from my school days. I put on a determined face and drug my students through the mud of placing the parts of speech on the correct line.

Other teachers loved teaching sentence diagramming. They used colored markers and sentence strips. I still have boxes full of left over sentence strips and dried up markers. 

No matter how colorful I made it, the bottom line ... it was still boring to me. And because it was boring to me... That's right. It was boring to my students. I don't know who was happier, me or my students, when diagramming was finally (and not a minute too soon) deemed unnecessary.

In fact, writing in general has never been my thing. I spend lots of time second guessing myself and looking up rules- making sure I'm following them (or in the case of blogging- enjoying the freedom of not following them). 

Grading essays was sheer torture. I'm sure my students felt the same way writing them. I did try. Honest. I looked for ways that would make writing a narrative something that anyone would like to do. I tried every suggestion from experienced teachers. But the excitement was missing.

In retrospect, I realize that my lack of enthusiasm probably hurt a lot of my students. On the flip side, my enthusiasm probably engaged students that would rather sleep while the Civil War was fought. It all comes down to atmosphere. Remember the old saying, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy?" That goes for teachers too. If we are not excited about teaching, how can our students be excited about learning?
(For more of Kim Frencken's writing, check out her blog, Chocolate For the Teacher.)

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