Life can seem difficult as a teacher; we have notoriously difficult jobs, and that can bring us to put our own morale aside. Students can pick up on this quick, however, so it’s just as important to keep your enthusiasm up as it is to maintain the enthusiasm of your class. Here are some things that I do to keep the beast at bay and bring maximum happiness into my career.
1. Journal Questions
Journal Questions are often a missed opportunity to connect with students… and to have a little fun. The first 5 minutes of class are for answering the journal prompt – then the second 5 minutes are for sharing, with Fridays for Friday Freewrites. The important rule that I like to apply to make it fun for me is that I share last. The students like these questions because they get to share themselves – and find a little bit out about their teacher. Questions like “What do you believe happens after death?” and “Describe your daily routine as a vending machine.” keep kids engaged.
2. #Custom #Gamification
Tools like the awesome Classcraft can be tailor-made for your class. In Classcraft, there’s this feature called the Random Event. The first thing I did with it was I went through them and added custom events based on information I knew about my students. I have events based on TV characters, characters from the books we read… no limits!
3. A Change of Scenery
I use a projector in my class to help the students follow along when we read or to model how to do some of the assignments. One thing I like to do is change the desktop wallpaper every week or so. Students appreciate the change – and they love when they can connect with something like what show you’re watching lately or a trip you went on based on whatever image you use. You can also use pictures from the news if you want to start a conversation that way.
4. Take risks.
You may have gotten so experienced that you are loath to reinvent the wheel by trying anything new. One thing I’ve learned though is that if you dread it, the kids will dread it. If something is going to be painful, take your own time and remake it. Tell the kids what you did! “I was going to have us read Medea, but then I realized we’d all have more fun with The Merchant of Venice!” Students seem to like when I go out on a limb for them.
5. Character Study
Sometimes I teach with different voices or accents. This can be taken to an extreme; what if you taught a science lesson as Charles Darwin? What if Atticus Finch ran today’s discussion of To Kill a Mockingbird? You don’t necessarily have to be an awesome actor for this; you just have to commit. Don’t break character for a moment, wear the right clothing… and of course, if someone uses your real name, act confused, but tell them that they sound like a really good-looking person.
These ideas can breathe new life into your work – and provide the morale boost you need to get through the day. Most importantly, they can teach and model for the students how being in the professional world doesn’t necessarily entail a moratorium on happiness; all it can take sometimes is the right combination of factors for your passion to ignite theirs.