Students fall in love with content that teachers love to teach.
As teachers, we must treat the content we teach like the team we’re endorsing. When we allow our passion for what we teach to leak out, and we become the biggest fans of our content—when we, in short, become our own mascots—our subject matter becomes contagious.
There will be times when we interact in silly ways, and other times when we lead the charge, but our ultimate goal is to inspire our students to take things to a whole new level on their own. The key is to show them that what they are learning is relevant, and that it’s OK to love every moment of it.
Those who love math, language arts, science, history, or any other subject usually love it because a past teacher made it come alive for them. They often explore specific topics because a teacher made it so interesting, exciting, or relevant that it became contagious.
Veteran teacher, blogger, podcaster, and presenter Chuck Poole writes in his book, uNforgettable, about10 destinations that will give you the inspiration and knowledge you need to take action and impact students in and out of your classroom. One of those ways is making content contagious.
One area that is just as important as the teachers is the actual content we teach every day—and how we teach it. When our students come into our classrooms, they know what subjects they will be learning. We must make it memorable, and make sure they hold onto it for years to come.
If we let our enthusiasm shine, our students will become those curious movie-goers who can’t wait to see what our next classes will be about. How we demonstrate our passions might change depending on who we are as individuals. Some of us may dress up as a character when we teach a novel, or pose as a figure in history when we are studying a specific time period. We may bring personal connections into our content to show how it excites us in real life. We may form clubs and set up extra activities around the content for students to join in the fun.
The possibilities are endless, but when our students experience our content through the lens of our passions, they will start to realize how powerful the content can be. It gives them a glimpse of who we are outside of the classroom, and shows them that what we teach is part of who we are, and that we love it.
Our students look to us to be the authorities in what we teach. If we simply go through the motions and lack energy, they will doubt our knowledge. If we offer them curriculum without insight, they will tune us out. But if we show our passions, and demonstrate how much we love what we teach, they’ll treat us as authorities on the matter. They’ll join in with our enthusiasm and come to us with any questions they can think up.
We might not always know the answers, but they’ll trust us to figure them out. Our enthusiasm will become their enthusiasm, and they will take more ownership of the subject—and start to make it relevant to their own lives.
If you don’t love what you do, you won’t do it with much conviction or passion. — Mia Hamm
Great leaders have a contagious attitude that sparks curiosity and makes others want to follow them no matter where they go. Our students are looking for people to lead them, and we can take advantage of that by becoming the authorities on subjects they find fascinating. uNforgettable teachers find ways to ignite curiosity in students, and then lead them into deeper explorations of the content in front of them.
Here are 5 ideas for you to get started today.
1. Create an Inspiration Wall
Some teachers are uNforgettable because they are inspirational. They inspire their students to accomplish the unthinkable and help them rise to expectations they never thought they could reach.
An inspiration wall is a space set aside in the classroom to display student findings, successes, and positivity around your subject area, and it puts students at the center of it all. It motivates them by offering the chance to be recognized as someone who matters.
2. Make Your Content Like a Brand
The most successful brands are contagious. People become fans of the brand and then start to spread the word on their own. Teachers need to brand our own content so our students do the same.
Create assignments and experiences that include their interests, get to know what they want in their learning and give it to them, and feed their desire to be in your class, and you will get them fascinated in your content—and therefore your brand.
3. Make Your Content Contagious by Stepping into Their Shoes
A sure-fire way to make our content relevant to our students is to step into their shoes and teach it as if we were learning it. We often teach the way we enjoy learning, and then assume our students enjoy it as well. Sometimes we put together creative units or spend hours figuring out fun ways to teach a concept, only to find out that our students are less than impressed with our presentation.
When we have to convince them to enjoy our lessons through an argument, we’re failing. They’ll never learn to love what we teach if we have to talk them into it. Instead, step into their shoes and figure out what they find exciting.
4. Set Realistic Expectations
When we set expectations within reach of our students, we set them up for success. Once they find success, they will move forward.
Just like with anything else, though, we have to find the right balance for those expectations. Some students will find our content easy, while others will find it difficult. Our goal is to find the perfect balance, to challenge our high achievers, inspire the hard workers, and allow those who struggle to soar. All students can succeed as long as we scaffold our content so it challenges them and stays within reach at the same time.
5. Spread the Good News
When our students do something amazing, whether in or out of school, they are bursting with excitement. When they achieve something they have worked hard for, a smile stretches across their faces as they make their way up to let us know the good news. We can approach our content in the same way.
Let’s create an atmosphere that is filled with excitement about the content we teach. Our students want to see teachers who are happy to be there and who bring a positive spin to every lesson. They want to be taught by teachers who customize expectations to challenge them where they are, so they can rise above and accomplish the impossible.
Be uNforgettable by making your content come alive and feel contagious. Whether you build an inspiration wall, adjust your expectations to better suit their needs, or you share your stories of triumph, do what it takes to demonstrate your love for your content, so your students will view it as important and worth pursuing themselves.