Most students complete their bachelor’s degree in education in four years. Teachers’ degrees provide a broad liberal arts education and a strong foundation in teaching knowledge and skills. In your junior and senior years of an education degree, you will specialize in education classes and get a chance to put your teaching knowledge to use as you complete countless hours of supervised student teaching.
But it’s only through trial-and-error that you’ll figure out how to maintain interest in the classroom. Here are a few tactics to consider:
1. Don’t just lecture—We’ve all had teachers we loved and teachers whose classes we dreaded attending. But what baffles me the most is the same list of things you disliked about your teacher is the same list of things students dislike about you. Don’t lecture to your students for the entire class time. It’s okay to have open discussions, roundtables, mock courtrooms, and use work-related examples and real-life scenarios, or ANYTHING that will add some interest and get students to actually retain information (that doesn’t include pop quizzes).
2. Give those PowerPoints some flare—Don’t just pick the first template and the same transition and think you’re doing something special. Use pictures, videos, and sounds; have random Q & A slides so you can tell if the students are actually paying attention. And if you haven’t been introduced to Prezi, take this time to experience the Wow Factor that is a visual presentation.
3. Incorporate technology—Some random ways to use technology would be to create an app, song, video, scan code, or the next phone/game/gaming system design. Depending on the age you teach, you don’t actually have to create these things, but going through the motions of brainstorming and creating blueprints would still be exciting for the students. Also, think about letting them submit work via email, take tests online, play educational online games, etc. Writing papers and reading books will always be the basics, but it’s time to collaborate with 21st century innovations!
4. Try to relate to your students—Although you’re the teacher, all of your students teach you something new, and if you just make an attempt to stay knowledgeable of things that interest them, they’ll be a lot easier to connect with.
5. Keep them active—Regardless of the subject you teach, find a way to get those kids out of their seats. With science it’s a bit easier due to all of the experiments, but math teachers could use various manipulatives and real-life scenarios to help students solve math problems; social studies and language arts teachers could really get creative recreating important scenes from history with costumes, skits, and cool projects. If all else fails, make a board game or take students on a scavenger hunt. And if you’re really out of ideas, just have them stand up and stretch.
6. Stand by the rules you set—You’ll be respected more if you practice consistency. Usually teachers start off making the syllabus the end-all, be-all. Unfortunately by the second month no one can even find that thing, which means the late assignment that usually wouldn’t have been accepted is now being accepted and graded with no penalty. You may not be aware, but situations like that cause a lot of tension between the students who do their work on time and the lazy ones who have no regard for time management.
7. Know your students’ learning abilities—One thing you can never do as a teacher is assume everyone will learn the same way and at the same speed. So avoid things like repeating instructions to the entire class when only one or two people didn’t understand. Conversely, don’t let your fast learners get idle because you’re helping those one or two people; always have “busy work”.
In a nutshell, your teaching degree gave you the skills to teach, but you and your creativity determine how well your students accept your lessons. If you can bring something new to the table consistently, you’ll have a better chance of reaching your students.