Feb 08

Teaching Tip: Reach Out to Breakthrough

If you want your students to like your material then you have to reach out to your students and reach them on their level.  Living in a society of ‘what is in it for me’, teaching has become less of ‘here is the information you need to know’ to ‘this is how the information I am about to give pertains to your life’.  This can make teaching a challenge because students will tune out teachers that do not make the material relevant to their lives, and making the material relevant can be tricky at times.  For example, how do you make trigonometry relate to a student that only wants to be like the Kardashians, (why??? Still trying to figure that one out but there are students out there like that) or like at my school, teach why the Founding Fathers are important to a student that wants to be a brick mason.  Relating those things to students that only seem interested in the here and now can be difficult, but it can be done.

First you have to find out what they are interested in.  Sometimes this is easy, for instance, I am a big sports guy so if a student I know who likes sports is struggling with why the United States needed France to step in and help the United States during the American Revolution I would explain it like this.

 -Ok say you are about to play a pickup basketball game on your court and are going against the Miami Heat ,the biggest baddest team out there they have superstars wherever you look.   Here you are 5 feet nothing a hundred and nothing pounds and you are supposed to take on Lebron James.  Yeah good luck with that!  Now think of yourself in that situation as the American Colonies now states because you just signed the Declaration of Independence.  They are going up against the number one army and navy of its time period.  No way the United States is going to win is there?  Now remember U.S. has home field advantage just like you do against the Heat, but it is still a long shot for you to win unless you get some help.   So let’s say that you call up the San Antonio Spurs and Tim Duncan and the guys come to help you out.  The odds are a little bit more even, it is still going to be a tough game, but at least you have a chance now and with a little luck and the right strategy and good leadership you might win.  So you taking on the Miami Heat is a lot like the new United States taking on Britain and without France on in your case the San Antonio Spurs helping you the match is going to be long and brutal.

Now that works well for me because I am a sports fan and those analogies come easy, but trying doing that with a middle school girl that is in love with Justin Bieber just does not work so I have to come up with a way to reach her too which means I have to have some knowledge of what the Biebs has been up to.  Luckily for me, and unfortunately for mankind, just about every major news outlet has some sort of celebrity headlines on the front page of their website so it is not too hard to get somewhat of an idea about what is going on.  Of course, when I get it wrong my students will correct me very quickly like the time I was calling some boy band New Direction instead of One Direction.  At least I tried and I think that gets me a few points in their book.

Teaching Tip: If you really want to reach your student find out what they are interested in and talk to them about it.  Use your teaching material and relate it to their hobbies, likes, or what is currently going on in the world.  As long as you relate the material to their lives they will absorb it and make it their own.  If you just teach it like the textbook you will be as boring as the textbook.

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  1. freda

    Kenny you are such a good teacher. Wish we had a lot more like you. Makes me want to go back to 8th grade.

    1. Kenny and Karen

      Thank you so much for those kind words

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