1. Discover new things together.
It’s much more fun for both parties when students and teachers learn new things together. Your job is, of course, to educate, but why can’t that process include the joy of shared discovery? Make a point each day of letting down your authoritative guard, humbling yourself, and enjoying the lifelong journey together–even if it’s just for a few mintues.
2. Incorporate mystery into your lessons.
Learning is the most fun when it’s surprising. Don’t just disseminate information; cloak it in mystery. Highlight the weird, the unusual, the unique. Ask questions. Start with a curious detail that can only be addressed by diving into the background of the subject and thoroughly exploring it. Pose a mystery at the beginning of the course and let your students work towards solving it throughout the term.
3. Be goofy; show you care.
Let loose; laugh; make fun of yourself. Don’t worry about sacrificing your authority. In fact, the latest research says authority stems from showing you care about your students, and making them laugh and feel good is one way to do that.
4. Participate in projects.
I had a creative writing professor at uni who would bring his own material to class for the students to workshop. It was great fun for all of us, and enjoyable for him as well. Stepping down to our level and actually participating in an activity he assigned himself made us all more engaged in the task because he was willing to be a part of it.
5. Avoid “going through the motions.”
If you feel yourself slipping into a rut, spending the same hours exactly the same way each day, stop and reassess your teaching process. It’s so easy to let it all become automatic, especially after twenty-plus years in the field, and to use the same lessons and techniques year after year with different students. But if it’s not fun for you, it won’t be fun for your students either. Make an effort to be fresh, try new things, take risks, make mistakes, enjoy the moment.
6. Flip your lessons.
Flipping your lessons will help you avoid boring in-class activities. If students watch lectures or correct their own homework the night before, you can spend the course period focusing on deeper learning. Everyone will appreciate the chance to reflect on, instead of repeat, the material.
7. Review–but don’t repeat–material.
It’s important for learning and memory to review new material regularly and to integrate it into the bigger picture shaped by old material. Spend an hour or two each week reviewing material from the past few weeks, but always position it within old material so that students see how it all fits together. Simply repeating new information represents a missed learning opportunity.
8. Share your passions.
Show students how you have fun. Passion is contagious. If you’re having a good time, chances are your students will too.
9. Laugh at your students’ jokes.
The best teachers I’ve ever had got a genuine kick out of their students. It’s one of the best ways to ensure teachers and students have fun: enjoy one another.
10. Replace lectures with conversations.
Why should teaching be so passive? Forget the sage on the stage and engage your students in a casual conversation like you would a good friend. This doesn’t necessarily mean asking more questions, but it does require a stylistic shift whereby you and your students are actively exchanging ideas–not just responding to them.
11. Put on a performance.
In his books and workshops, Doug Lemov talks about what pace to move around the room, what language to use when praising a student, how to adjust the angle of your head to let students know you’re looking at them. Teaching, he says, is “a performance profession.” You don’t have to be theatrical (though that might help), but you do have to be self-aware.
12. Enjoy yourself.
People with high confidence–people we respect and listen to–tend to have one important trait in common: they enjoy themselves. Quite literally. You’ll have a significantly better time teaching if you work on nurturing your personal relationship with yourself. Your students will have a better time, too.
13. Make yourself available.
Don’t go to the teacher’s lounge during lunch; stay in your room and invite students to eat lunch with you. Keep your doors open after the bell rings at the end of the day. Make yourself available online for part of the evening. Hold one-on-one and group office hours. Invite students to your home for workshops or end-of-course celebrations.
14. Try being a student again.
Take a seat in the audience and let your students teach you for the day. Spend a week doing your own assignments. Let students grade you on projects or presentations.
15. Don’t take yourself–or your subject–too seriously.
One complaint I hear from students is that teachers don’t sympathise with the fact that their course isn’t the only course students are taking. Students have to balance assignments and material from several courses at once (you had to do the same thing not so long ago). This doesn’t mean loosening your rules or being lenient on late work; it means acknowledging that students have interests and priorities that might not line up with yours. Try to be understanding, and even express interest in other courses students are taking. Think of it as an opportunity to strengthen students’ grasp of your subject by relating it to other disciplines.
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