One of three situations is before you.
You have been assigned a course that is unequivocally one of your least favorite to teach.
You are teaching the same course for the umpteenth time.
It is your first time teaching. First. Time. Ever.
And believe it or not, all three of these educators are similarly positioned because you consciously think to yourself “I have to find a way to make it through this term and appear to effortlessly make it through without faltering or running out of steam for both my and the students’ sake. How is THAT possible?!”
What you must know is it is entirely possible to make it an enjoyable and worthwhile experience for both you and your students. When you create passion, interest, and enthusiasm at the start of each class session, you have created an environment that motivates all assembled, and no matter your years or lack thereof of expertise, here are the four steps you take to smoothly make your way through the term with grace, determination, excitement, passion, and enthusiasm in both you and your students.
1. Inform – If you take away nothing else from this post, remember this: “The number one reason adults will listen to you is they know why they should listen to you” according to presentation skills expert Jason Teteak. Let students know the purpose of the class session and what they will know or be able to do upon conclusion of the class session. Clarify how the current class session connects to the last class session and/or how it connects to the overall course. Explain how this one puzzle piece fits with the larger picture, referring to the student learning objectives, the course description, and/or the textbook content to clearly illustrate how this class session will contribute to moving students closer to mastery and what new knowledge or abilities they will have once class ends that they did not have when they stepped into your classroom.
2. Excite – Students should know the benefits of the class session and why it should be important to them. This is intricately connected to the act of informing students. Recall the number one reason adults will listen to you … there is an excitement when you realize you can enhance yourself, your performance, your potential on some level as a result of having done X. Get students to crave what you have to share with them. If you convey how students will improve as a result of having spent their time engaged with you, their classmates, and the course content during a class session, then students cannot help but to bubble with excitement.
3. Engage – Capture and hold fast students’ attention with a compelling fact, a startling statistic, a tangential comment, a cartoon … Give your honest reaction to the content. “I was not enthused at all about teaching this topic today, but then I got to thinking ….” Change your voice or use your body language to speak for you. Draw them in so there is no way their attention can get diverted from what is occurring in that classroom.
4. Involve – Get students immediately talking, writing, and moving so they know your voice, ideas, and actions are not the only valid ones in the room. Consider a classroom assessment technique or any number of icebreakers to involve students in the conversation. And as you progress through the session, your students’ levels of interest and involvement can become greater elevated with active lecturing.
Sure, this takes conscious thought and preparation, but there is always this alternative: walk in, say “hello,” then painfully chalk-and-talk for 50 minutes, 120 minutes, or 2 or 3 hours.
Make the passionate and enthusiastic choice. You and your students will thank you for it.