This is for teachers in supplementary schools, particularly those who work with Jewish teens. I've been invited to observe classes where teachers really feel that they're doing a great job.They feel that students are attentive, absorbing material, and advancing their learning. I've seen some of the best, yet....there are so many that just seem to miss the mark.
How do I know?
They're talking, and often teens are texting (under the desk or in pockets or defiantly, right out there.
There's no excitement or signs of life in the class, save for the teacher talking, talking, talking up front.
Their students' faces belie boredom (why don't the teachers see this?)
Here are four simple steps to take that I believe have the power to transform how you work with students.
1. Back off. Yes. Try 'retreating' from the space in front of the room. Test yourself. Make sure that you're listening for a greater percentage of class time than you're talking. That will do wonders by itself. There's no podium in the front of the class, so no need to stand on one. Get rid of the frontal dynamic by making sure students work in groups.
2. Ask questions. Good ones. Ones that don't need a yes or no answer. If you haven't mastered the art of inquiry, read up. There's tons of materials out there. Make sure you're not just asking to ask...really pay attention to the responses and respond back. Every student needs to feel valued.
3. Get familiar with social/emotional learning and reaching students down deep. It makes for more impactful lessons. Focusing on making that emotional connection will help you make sure that you're reaching all students, not just the ones who are either the most vocal or the most problematic.
4. This is so obvious, it's embarrassing to say. But here goes. Know every single student by name. This is an absolute must and tells your students how important they are to you. If you have a bad memory, ask them to make name placards and bring them with you. No excuse. Every student needs to be valued in this way.