As an educator for many years I realize that the hardest thing for us to do is make that lasting connection with the students. There are so many techniques that may help but something is always missing. We are always looking for the aha moment, the moment when the student’s whole face lights up with understanding. It is an amazing moment when you can experience it. The student is completely engrossed in the learning. Emotions, thoughts and all sensory feedback is related to the knowledge that comes through that instantaneous realization that all is comprehensible. At that moment the student feels like all is right with the world.
As teachers, we all know that the work that goes into finding that moment is immense. We would stand on our heads if we thought it might get that aha moment to come more often and for more of our students than it does. We look to other teachers that we can identify as successful for ideas and hints on reaching that level of connectivity with our students. We all seem to understand that “the ability to stimulate strong positive emotions in students separates the competent from the outstanding teacher.” (Lowman, 1995) Unfortunately we don’t always find that connection. Our students struggle and we aren’t far from standing on our heads just to see what might happen.
As we troubleshoot this issue, one of the issues that comes up is the lack of connection. The students don’t connect to the material, the world doesn’t connect to the material BUT we know that it does. This is where the missing link is, the students and the teachers are not connecting. I am so excited by my class. I LOVE science, the math teacher LOVES math, the English teacher LOVES English but the students don’t. Our excitement should be contagious, I know when I talk to my friends, they become excited by the newest tidbit that I have to share. So why aren’t my students?
I can’t expect them to climb into my brain. What do I do now? I have to regress in a matter of speaking. I need to take a step back and think like my students do. What if I was the student? What would I want to see in my classroom? Well forget that, I’m too old for them. So what did I want in my classes when I was in school? What did I see that I didn’t like? Why did I hate that class so much? What would I have wanted my teacher to do differently? It is really heard to find the answers to these questions.
I have an idea! What if one of our PD sessions is set up in a manner where the roles are reversed. Have the teachers sit in the chairs as the students do. Another teacher can present a lesson to those teachers. The teachers in the students’ seats should act just like the students would in their classes. Take that as feedback and troubleshoot the lesson right there and then. If the teachers take on the role of the student, we might just remember what it was like to be in the those chairs. We might remember what it was like to take instruction and direction that might not be crystal clear. If we can remember that, may be we can figure out another way to connect with our students.