Being Yourself in the Classroom

October 11, 2017
David J. Adam

Let personal passion guide your daily lessons. Excitement, possibility, discovery; these are serious tools for you to make use of as a teacher. We take them for granted sometimes, don’t we? We can get so wrapped up in what needs to get done that the fun bits seem indulgent and unnecessary, wasting precious time. But remember: Making the material fun isn’t some kind of cop-out; it’s often exactly what’s needed to make the information stick.

Be yourself and demonstrate joy. Education may be serious business, but it could be all for naught if what you’re teaching doesn’t reach your students. Kids feed off of excitement. That isn’t to say you need to hop up on a desk and exclaim “Carpe diem!” — offer something kindly about yourself that naturally suits your personality and background. You’re in the perfect place to do that.

Humanizing yourself won’t hurt your status in the classroom. Young students have a tendency to see us purely as instructors. I bet you remember running into a teacher outside of school in your youth and it took you by surprise; a bit like seeing an alpaca directing traffic. Little things like acting “normal” can blow a kid’s mind. Use that to your advantage.

I love what I do, and what I do is a result of a life lived. So, my prep work now involves throwing in some notes about what the material means to me personally. Most of the time I incorporate them, sometimes I don’t; depends on the day. Either way, I find it reassuring to always keep them on hand.

When doing my prep work, I think: How did I approach the current topic as a younger person? What did I learn? Was it a challenge for me? If so, how did I deal with it? What was going on in my life when I learned about this? Why do I find this so rewarding? How has this been important to me and how have I used this information in my life outside of the school setting?

I’ll mention relevant projects I made, old teachers that instructed me in my current field that I either loved or couldn’t stand, I’ll bring in copies of my favorite books to pass around… these are things that your students genuinely get a kick out of. A story or joke or demonstration that serves as a reminder of how much you love what you do will inevitably spark interest and openness.

For a long time, I was so concerned with always saying the “right things” that I constantly overlooked the greatest benefits of an honest conversation: people loosen up, and they share in “moments.” In a funny way, it took having a classroom full of my own students for me to really appreciate that. A shared moment makes things more memorable.

Remember that your attitude in the classroom significantly affects the lasting success of your students. You’re an endless resource of insights and experiences, so why not take advantage? Keep your lessons engaging not only for the sake of young minds, but also yourself. Make an impression, and make your default teaching style “passionate.”

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