What can a teacher do to inspire students?
The average classroom is a far cry from the inspirational learning environments portrayed by Hollywood. Getting pupils to care about the subjects they’re forced to learn isn’t easy, especially when they can’t see the point of doing it. But over the years, teachers have developed systems and techniques that can start to get the cogwheels whirring in kids’ minds. They tend to revolve around setting goals, conveying confidence and showing how lessons apply to the real world outside the school gates. Here are our favourite inspirational teaching tricks.
Break it up
Every day can feel the same to children, and although the rhythm of school life is reassuring and comforting, it’s hardly inspirational. That’s why some teachers go to great lengths to put diversions and unexpected events along the way. They can be anything from taking lessons onto the school field to bringing in games for them to play instead of traditional lessons.
There are two ways of doing this: map out future events so kids can start looking forward to the change; or to simply spring the changes on them. Both have their merits, but announcing changes of routine on the day can keep kids on their toes, and also allows you to take into account the weather (if applicable) or how well behaved they’ve been.
Bring in experts
It’s hard for teachers to show how lessons will come in useful later in life. So why not bring in experts in a range of fields for an afternoon to talk to children about their jobs and take questions? From a shop worker to an engineer, from a vet to a pilot, learning about what jobs people do away from their immediate families can be a real eye-opener for kids, and can give young minds goals to aim for. The great thing is that the guests can point out why English, maths, art, science or any other subject is crucial to their career, and that can be a priceless motivator.
Set up a reward system
Reward systems often work on a cumulative merit basis, where children earn tokens for excellent work, with tokens being redeemable for special treats at the end of each week, month or term (the frequency is optional). Creating a so-called “token economy” really does work, because it forms a direct link between behaviour, hard work and reward. If children don’t cotton on to the benefits straight away, they will when they start seeing their peers being rewarded with treats and privileges.
Never stop believing
This is probably the most important inspiration method: have 100% faith in your students. If you never give up on struggling children, you’ll keep pushing them to reach their potential, and even if they never quite get there, you’ll have taken them further than you would if you had shrugged your shoulders and said you tried your best.
Furthermore, children recognise when authority figures have placed trust and faith in them, and most of the time, they respond to that trust with extra effort. With just a little faith, you can start a spiral of self-improvement that will carry them through their lives.