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I recently met up with a former student for lunch. I remember her as one of the intelligent, creative and insightful students I ever had. She had chosen the same path I did many years ago and I was excited to hear all her news. Unfortunately, she complained that she was so tired and felt that she had failed to make any connection with her students. Jokingly, I quipped, “Well, now you know what I went through.”
Kidding aside though, teaching is hard. But if teachers feel that way, one could easily imagine how difficult it is also for students to sit in class the whole day! It becomes even more exhausting if despite all our efforts, students continue to think that school is boring.
What then should teachers do?
Someone once said that we only do well the things we like doing. It is therefore important that teachers find opportunities everyday to find pleasure in the classroom. If teachers like what they are doing and find pleasure in it, students most probably also will.
1. Make learning a pleasurable experience
Real learning is not memory work. It is not simply getting the right answer. It is not even perfecting the test. Learning becomes pleasurable when we involve our students in activities that are relevant to their own realities and experiences. It becomes pleasurable when students drive themselves to work and there is no need for motivation. Learning becomes a pleasure when they fulfill assigned tasks at their own will.
2. Explore students’ creativity
We all like to be masters of our own ship. We like doing things so that we can look at them after with pride in our eyes. Giving students free rein to explore their creativity can be an empowering experience. They learn to discover their talents, appreciate themselves and learn to use these gifts for the good of others.
3. Let students choose
While teachers are expected to teach, we are not expected to make students learn. We are only expected to help them learn. How do we do that? Let them choose. Despite all our preparation to steer the ship, our students have the map. They are the only ones who can define how they can learn best. So, let them choose.
4. Read, Read, Read
Whatever subject we teach, it is possible to incorporate little bits of information in our lesson. Everyone loves a little trivia, a brain twister, a shocking or intriguing news headline; anything that would make students realize that what they are learning isn’t just a fragment of information hovering in space. They need to understand that these abstract geometric theorems or laws of physics or dead historical figures have some alternate significance in our present world.
5. Be a little crazy and experiment
Gone are the days when students were likened to assembly lines with neither a thought nor an idea as to how things work. Great inventions are born in the imagination, not in textbooks or from the teacher’s lesson plan. What do Thomas Edison, Alfred Einstein, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates have in common? A bit of intelligence, a lot of determination, and a whole lot of craziness to go where others dared not thread. Allow students to think, get a little crazy and take risks.
These are five simple points to make teaching and learning a pleasurable experience. I must admit though, it’s not always easy. But learning should be fun. So let’s try to make it fun.
If all things fail, sleep on it. There’s always another day.